Everyone who knows or has heard about Madagascar instantly links the country to its out-of-this-world wildlife. Well, what do you expect from a destination where rare species like the giant leaf-tailed gecko, giraffe weevil, leaf-nosed snakes, the world’s rarest ducks, tomato frog, rare lemur and tenrecs all live in a desert landscapes punctuated by baobabs and pachypodia? The Wildlife Conservation Society says Madagascar is home to more than 90 identified lemur species, 283 bird species, 12,000 vascular plant species, more than 300 amphibian species, 346 reptiles species and 30 bat species, one only needs to step into this island nation to appreciate the uniquely different world that exists just off the south-eastern coast of Africa. For a tip of the iceberg, here are some endemic creatures that make Madagascar a wildlife buff’s toast.
These creatures are like cats crossed with a squirrel and a dog. They come in various species and you’ll find them mainly in Madagascar. The island nation is particularly famous for being home to lemurs which have interesting features and fascinating behaviours that include singing like a whale and sashaying across the sand like a dancer (these characters are unique to the indri and the sifaka respectively).
If there is any must-see creature in Madagascar, it is the various species of chameleon and Lemur. Madagascar is home to more than half the world’s estimated chameleon species, and you’ll appreciate seeing them in their various sizes and shades. When we think of chameleon, camouflage comes to mind, but do you know that chameleons change colour as a means of communicating with each other far more than they do for the sake of camouflage? A visit to Madagascar will enlighten you more.
At first sight, you’re likely to confuse them for a cat or dog but they are different. Fossas have doglike snouts and catlike bodies, with long tails and retractable claws. Fossas are a species of endemic and endangered Madagascar wildlife belonging to the mongoose family (cats and dogs are members of a subfamily of the mongoose too) and constitute Madagascar’s largest mammalian carnivore, feeding mainly on Lemur.
Leaf (and flat)-tailed gecko (Uroplatus fimbriatus and giganteus)
Imagine a gecko-like creature that stores water in its tail and uses its tongue to remove dust from its eye because it lacks eyelid! The creature you were picturing is Madagascar’s flat-tailed gecko and its geographical distance cousin—the leaf-tailed gecko. In addition to their freak look, these creatures are also masters of camouflage with uncanny ability to blend into their environment.
This species of the tenrecs is unique for its water adaptations. The rat-like creature has large hind-limb muscles and webbed feet that help them to swim. They are small and elusive, but can be seen usually trawling the shallow body of Madagascar waters for food.
Malagasy leaf-nosed snakes (Langaha madagascarensis)
The signature bizarre nasal appendage protruding from its face stands this snake out. The snake is also among the few sexually dimorphic snakes around, with females having more serrated and elaborate nasal protrusion as against the male which is longer with pointier appendages. You’ll usually find the snake hanging from tree branches with head pointing towards the ground.
These unusual frogs are found in the northeast of Madagascar. Unlike toads, they lack webbed feet, but have smooth toe pads and vibrant orange-red colour (mostly the female) like tomato. Their colour is a defence mechanism that alerts their predator to their poisonous characteristics.
This curious-looking bright-red-wing creature has extended neck like a giraffe. The male’s neck is long and it uses it to fight for a mate while the females use theirs to build nest to protect their eggs.
Definitely one of the rarest ducks in the world, the pochards are known to feed on invertebrates, seeds and aquatic plants and could stay underwater for two minutes. They were thought to be extinct as of the late 1990s before a few of them (22 ducks) were fund around Lake Matsaborimena in 2006. Today, wildlife conservatives are reversing Madagascar Pochards’ near extinction through an extensive breeding programme
You can easily confuse this creature for a fossa but they are different. The Malagasy civets look like a cross between a domestic cat and a fox, they walk and stalk their prey like foxes but their faces look elongated and their legs are shorter. A Civet’s body is closer to the ground like domesticated cats’. The specie has a faintly ringed and quite bushy tail, while their body has a light tan and grey coat with black markings on their thick short fur. Also called striped civet, this creature is found mainly in the green forest of Madagascar.
Extra: Madagascar Moon Moth
This is one of the largest silk moths in the world. It has wide and bright coloured wings and a tail that is as long as six inches.
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