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Creatures of Madagascar – Wildlife

‘WILDLIFE’ OF MADAGASCAR

The ‘wild’ in wildlife is definitely the emphasis in Madagascar. Though, ‘wildlife’ is perhaps a little misleading – usually implying cute and fluffy or large majestic animals, such as the Big 5. In Madagascar, the creatures are neither particularly ‘cute’ nor large, with the exception of the quirky lemurs (see previous post Lemurs of Madagascar).

In fact, despite having vast savannahs, tangled bush and dense forests, Madagascar has no big animals. One can, theoretically, walk the open bush without the threat of being attacked by a large creature. Even the snakes and spiders are non-venomous. But they are large… and abundant, as I soon learn.

90% of the wildlife, flora and fauna of Madagascar is endemic, found nowhere else on the planet. That’s why it is often referred to as the ‘Eighth Continent,’ the entire country being a biodiversity hotspot. Isolated and remote, the largest island in Africa lies 250 miles adrift of the African mainland landmass, positioned in the exquisite Indian Ocean. Owing to this segregation, species have evolved over millions of years into the unique creatures found on the island today. Having travelled my whole life, it takes a little extra to shock me. But the geckos and chameleons in Madagascar defy all the laws of nature, as I know them. They have to be seen to be believed. And even then, they are surreal.

Enjoy these images as much as I enjoyed capturing them {shudders}. Which is your favourite? I know mine…

WEIRD & WONDERFUL CREATURES – PHOTOGRAPHS:

PANTHER CHAMELEON

The most brightly coloured chameleon. Below, the Panther Chameleon strikes and snaffles a cricket, the remains hanging out it’s mouth. I’ll never forget the crunching sounds! The Panther’s eyes move independently of each other and is it’s best asset for catching prey. The tail acts as a 5th leg, by which the Panther can hang off a branch.

PARSON’S CHAMELEON

The Parson’s chameleons have fused toes, which give it webbed like padding to facilitate grip on branches.

Parson’s chameleon

MOSSY LEAF-TAILED GECKO

The Master of disguise is utterly undetectable on a tree bark. Engulfed in the same moss as the tree bark it inhabits, with a flat leaf-shaped tail which virtually blends into the bark, it is a remarkable feat of design.  Like chameleons, they can change their skin colour to match the bark too, making them virtually impossible to spot, even when pointed out.

FLAT LEAF-TAILED GECKO

Found on tree barks and leaves, this creature is a true wonder of the world. Prehistoric looking and ashen in both colour and texture, with padded sticky paws, the eyes are like frosted marbles. I couldn’t actually spot it when shown both a tree bark and a leaf. It takes some skill to detect it form it’s perfect camouflage. The tail ressembles a flat leaf, seemingly melting into the leaf. They are nocturnal and carnivorous, eating insects and other reptiles.

FROGS

BOOPHIS TREE FROG – Many of the 70 species of Boophis frog have only recently been discovered. It is critically endangered.

MANTELLA FROG – Measuring a tiny 20mm, these frogs are spotted by their bright red colour and are often jumping in groups. They’re the brightest frogs in colour. They can secret toxins, which they produce form the prey they eat, which make them poisonous.

PANDANUS TREE FROG – the smallest species of frog in Madagascar

SNAKES

This snake is dead. We spotted him in the middle of the tarmac on the road through the semi-arid desert in the south. In fact, this was one of around 10 or so snakes we saw, sunning themselves on the heated tarmac, ranging in size and length. Unfortunately, this one had been run over.

MADAGASCAR TREE BOA – The tree boa hunts at night and sleeps through the day. It is non-venomous. They’re found throughout Madagascar’s forests, from rainforests to dry desert settings.

SHORT-HORNED CHAMELEON

These are identified by their large flat ‘earlobes’ like elephant ears. The extended snout is bony. Several new species were identified in 2006. They live in trees and shrubs on the periphery of forests (arboreal).

Short-horned Chameleon

JEWEL CHAMELEON

We…my guide… spotted this tiny Jewel Chameleon hanging on a thread of a branch in the middle of the semi-arid Isalo National Park. They are diurnal and solitary, as this one was when we found it.

GIANT DAY GECKO

As the name suggests, these are the largest of the geckos. They’re bright green with red spots, hunt both day and night and live in the trees and shrubbery.

BANDED GECKO

TENRECS

Tenrecs are the shrews, otters, hedgehogs or mice of Madagascar. Around 30 species can be found, each quite distinctive in appearance. They eat frogs, crustaceans and insects. But they’re very shy and elusive creatures so are difficult to spot.

BATS

Sleeping bats

AND NOW FOR THE MORE BEAUTIFUL…

COMET MOTH

This is considered one of the most beautiful moths in the world. Named after it’s 2 long red tails, it is one of the world’s largest species of silk moth. The wingspan can extend to 20cm width. What’s incredible is their lifespan – 4 or 5 days. They’re fertile on Day 1 freshly hatched form the cocoon.

BUTTERFLIES

It’s uncommon to see butterflies grounded. But my guide spotted these two in the wilds of Mantadia National Park. They were mating. Perhaps one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever witnessed in the wild.

DRAGONFLIES

These dragonflies are conspicuous during our night hike, as the shimmering multicolour of the wing reflected back to the eye as we shone our torches through Andasibe forest at night.

ORCHID

Endemic Madagascan orchid.

STICK INSECT

Can you spot it? Really, go on. To the naked eye I could not find this stick insect on a range of twigs, until it physically moved. My guide found this female as we hiked the semi-arid sandstone canyons of Isalo National Park.

FLORA & FAUNA

This is a range of images of the flora and fauna I saw, all endemic to Madagascar.

Below, the ‘Pakipod’ or Elephant Foot Tree, in it’s infancy.

This is an aloe vera plant, with orange leaves, in which the aloe sap is found. There are 70 or so different species of aloe and all are found in and endemic to Madagascar.

Endemic Aloe Vera plant with orange leaves

I present to you the Mother-In-Law plant. It is so-called because it’s poisonous.

And finally, a giant bee nest, which resembles the head of a matchstick.

Bee nest like a giant matchstick!

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2 thoughts on “Creatures of Madagascar – Wildlife

  1. Just awesome Anisha. Thank you for sharing the wonders of Madagascar. Yes, you are absolutely right that 98% of wildlife species (both flora and fauna) are endemic to the region. This is the very reason scientist Norman Myers from oxford university formed the 25 biological hotspots of conservation priorities and Madagascar certainly has its island richness on that very list. Thank you for sharing and this is one destination I would love to pay a visit someday 🙂

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