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The Gap Year Blog

Biodiversity in Madagascar

1 Jul 2020 09:20 AM
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Madagascar, due to its geographic isolation from the rest of the world, is a biodiversity hotspot. More than 200,000 known species can be found on Madagascar and more than 90% are said to exist nowhere else. On the world's second-largest island country, you can find over 300 species of frogs or 100 kinds of lemurs.

 

However, the island's diverse ecosystems and unique wildlife are threatened by the rapidly growing human population and other environmental threats. Saving the biodiversity on Madagascar is important, it is one of the most threatened ecosystems on the planet. Moreover, almost all reptiles and amphibian species are endemic to the island. Conservation is needed, in order to reverse the effects of many species facing extinction, because their habitat is being destroyed.

 

Here are just a few of the creatures you might encounter when visiting Madagascar:

 

Lemurs

 

 

These animals are native only to the island of Madagascar. The group is defined as primates, as they are neither monkeys nor apes. They occupy different habitats such as rain forests, mountains or wetlands. Apart from Madagascar, they also live at the nearby Comoro Islands – located off the south-east coast of Africa.

 

According to Live Science, there are 105 species of lemur in a wide range of sizes. One of the smallest ones are the Madame Berthe’s mouse lemurs – weight 30 grams, grow to 4 inches and the tail adds 5 inches. The largest ones are the indri – weight to 22 lbs. and grow to 35 inches.

 

Lemurs live in trees, but there are some large species of lemurs that also spend time on the ground. Due to occupying different habitats, they are described as living all over the place rather than in just one specific area. Some of them live in rainforests and some in very dry areas – although the location with the highest number of lemurs seems to be overgrown forests, as there is more food in the area during the rainy season.

 

Some of the species don’t eat meat and eat fruits, flowers, leaves and tree barks. They can occasionally eat insects. In terms of their behaviour, they use scent-marking and vocalizations as the way of communication. Their tails help them to communicate distance or locate troop members. Lemurs live in groups, which usually includes less than 15 individuals.

 

According to World Animal Foundation, 16% of all lemur species are classified as critically endangered, 23% as endangered, 25% as vulnerable, 28% as "data deficient", and 8% as least concern.

 

Chameleon

 

 

Madagascar is said to be home to half of the world’s 150 species of chameleons. They occupy different habitats such as scrub savannas, wetlands, semi-desserts and even mountains. Although they mostly live in the rain forests and deserts of Africa.

 

Species are known for changing colours – they have two layers of specialized cells and their skin contains a superficial layer which contains pigments. Wikipedia explains the structure as follows: “Chameleons change colour by changing the space between the guanine crystals, which changes the wavelength of light reflected off the crystals which changes the colour of the skin”.

 

They do not change colours to match the surrounding, but rather to convey emotions or defend territories. Other easily noted characteristics include for example prehensile tailed used for climbing or moving and bulging eyes that are said to move independently of one another.

 

Flying Fox

 

 

These species are native to Madagascar and can be found in all parts of the island apart from the central highland region - living in tropical moist lowland forests.

 

They eat fruit juice, as well as leaves, figs, flowers and nectar. In terms of their description, they are described as the largest bat in Madagascar – body length of up to 10.5 in, wingspan of 49 in and a body weight of 1.65 lb. Females have a slightly smaller head than males and the colour of species is brown, with golden to dark brown on the chest and shoulders.

 

The flying fox is classified as ‘vulnerable’ on the Red List of Threatened species, as the numbers appear to be declining. Wikipedia explains the structure as follows: “Under Madagascar law, hunting this species is only permitted between the months of May and August. It is targeted both at its roosting sites and at the trees where it feeds, and the harvesting in many areas is believed to be unsustainable. It is taken as a subsistence food and also commercially”. It’s habitat it’s also said to be threatened as woodland is converted to agricultural land.

 

Would you like to help protect these incredible creatures in Madagascar? Join our conservation projects here.

 

 

By Julita Waleskiewicz, Online Journalism Intern

Frontier runs terrestrial and marine conservationcommunity and adventure projects in over 50 countries - join us and explore the world!