Written by Milly Whitehead on 02 / 07 / 2023
Gap Year Advice
Welcome to a wildlife enthusiast's paradise – Madagascar, a unique island teeming with life forms that exist nowhere else on our planet. Nestled in the Indian Ocean, this extraordinary island boasts an astonishing array of biodiversity, housing a collection of creatures that have evolved in isolation from mainland Africa. Join us as we embark on a virtual journey to uncover the island's best-kept secrets – ten mesmerising animals that call Madagascar home, each a testament to the wonders of evolution and the beauty of our planet's diversity.
In no particular order…
Now, to start, we have a Pochard duck. You might be thinking that a duck is nothing special, but you would be wrong. With a total population of under 100 in the world, the Madagascar Pochard is the rarest duck in the world! This exceptionally rare species was thought to be extinct for many years, but back in 2006, roughly 20 were discovered at Lake Mastaborimena.
So, in 2006 the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust began a breeding programme. By 2013, the researchers had managed to successfully raise the population from 20 to 80!
The initial decline in the population of the Pochard duck was caused by the loss of nesting sites and by the introduction of new species to their habitat. However, they are still vulnerable to extinction due to the scarcity of the food within their habitat. The IUCN has classified them as a critically endangered bird…Better get a picture before it’s too late!
This is a rather strange looking insect. This insect is named so, due to its enormously long neck!
With an average of 2.5cm, this insect is among the largest insects of the ‘Weevil family’. Most of its body parts are black, however, it has a shell that covers their hind legs, called the Elytra.
They spend most of their lives in the forests of Madagascar. They inhabit small tree's and feed on the leaves on these trees. Luckily, there are no known predators to the Giraffe Weevils, and despite the insect’s strange look, they are, as I am sure you will be pleased to know, completely harmless to humans!
As they are rather small creatures you are less likely to see one unless you are looking for them, but if you do, make sure to snap a photo!
Madagascar is home to almost 250 different species of birds! However, a staggering 44% of them are found nowhere else in the world! So, it is the perfect place to visit for a bird fanatic!
The Blue Coua’s are also called the Madagascar Coucal, who are renowned for their striking deep blue feathers!
Unlink other Cuckoo birds, these fine creatures build their own nests. They use leaves and twigs, and their nests usually remain hidden in the trees and bushes.
They only lay one egg during the breeding season, interestingly, Blue Coua’s also incubate their own eggs.
Unfortunately, these magnificent creatures may go extinct in the near future, due to hunting.
This colourful creature is among the largest in the world as it is the size of a house cat! This large species of Chameleon is native to Madagascar and are famous for their striking technicolour skin.
The colour pattern of their skin varies with the location they live in. The skin colours change from orange, red, blue, dark green or blue-green with different stripes and spots. The male panther chameleons are more colourful than the females.
Panther chameleons have the power to change their colour with incredible speed. This spectacular colour changing doesn’t merely depend on the change of location. It is also affected by their state of emotion, health, temperature variations and light intensity.
The male panther chameleons display such an amazing skin colour transformation during breeding season or on defence. The female chameleon usually has a dull colour either grey or brown. But, during the breeding season, they also become pale or orange to pink in colour.
Tomato frogs are so named as a result of their bright orange-red coloured skin. Only the female frogs have such a brilliant tomato like colour. Whereas the male frogs normally have a brown-orange colouring.
The tomato frogs inhabit swamps, shallow pools or other wetter parts of the island. The bright colour of the frog serves as a warning to their predators. Tomato frogs, however, are not very toxic, when threatened, their skin produces a thick, sticky fluid to deter potential predators such as snakes.
The tomato frog is also an ambush predator which means that they sit in a particular spot and will make a surprise attack on their prey. Their diet consists of insects and small invertebrates.
The Sifaka is an adorable species of Lemur that is only found in Madagascar. According to the native people, the Sifakas are so named due to their distinctive ‘shif-auk’ call.
There are three main types of Sifakas: golden crowned, coquerel’s and diademed. They are one of the most endangered species of Madagascar.
The biggest threat faced by the Sifakas is the loss of habitat.
Madagascar is famous for being the home of Lemurs. There are 50 different types of Lemur found within the forests of Madagascar. The Indri is the largest of all the lemurs found in Madagascar, they are also one of the most endangered species of lemur with a population less than 10,000.
The Indris inhabit the rainforests of the eastern part of Madagascar. They usually live in small groups that include 4-8 animals. They are best known for making high pitch calls, to communicate with each other. These calls are loud enough to be heard from miles away!
These divine creatures can cross a distance up to 10 metres in a single jump!
The Fossa is the largest carnivore found only in the forests of Madagascar.
These creatures are the top predators in Madagascar. They are strong, with a muscular body and a short reddish-brown coat. The long tail is one of the most distinguishing features of the fossa, as it actually makes up for half its length!
The Fossa are very agile climbers, with retractable claws and flexible ankle joints which allow them to easily climb up on the trees. The long tail of fossa also provides them with balance along the tree branches.
Again, the Fossa is an ambush predator, who can swiftly kill their prey…Lemurs are their main source of food, but they also hunt on small mammals such as fish and birds etc.
An Aye-aye is the largest nocturnal creature in the world, which again, can only be found in Madagascar. They are dark-brown in colour and have large eyes and slim figures. Despite the Aye-aye looking scary, they are actually extremely gentle and harmless animals. However, unfortunately, due to their looks, they are killed upon sight.
The Aye-aye are nocturnal meaning that they only hunt at night, and during the day, they sleep on the sphere like nest, which they build on tree branches. Aye-aye uses its large sensitive ears to detect the wood-boring larvae and take them out with their elongated middle finger.
The diet of the Aye-aye also includes seeds, fruits and nectar.
This beautiful gecko is a master of camouflage…This incredible lizard, unbelievably, can camouflage itself to resemble a dead leaf. This unique species can perfectly blend into its natural surroundings.
The satanic leaf-tailed gecko is a nocturnal reptile. During the day, they rest on tree branches or lie motionless over the dead leaves. They will blend into these surroundings in no time with their unique body shape and spectacular variability in colouration. And so, the gecko can avoid the threat from potential predators like birds and snakes.
Their incredible camouflage skills are not merely for show, it is to avoid threat. When facing a predator, they show off their bright red mouth by opening their jaws widely. In addition, they also display an erect tail, so that the gecko can confuse its predator and escape from its sight.
So, there you have it, your complete guide to the top 10 creatures you must look out for when travelling around Madagascar. If you're desperate to see these animals for yourself then it is possible be warned though, independently travelling around Madagascar as a first time backpacker isn't easy! It isn't what we'd describe as a "soft landing", and if you haven't done much backpacking before then you might find it tricky to navigate. But no fear, we can help you get there through our travel advice hub. We can help you navigate this crazy island and all it has to offer, as we have the expertise and experience needed to make your travels a success. All you need to do is get in touch.
on 02 / 07 / 2023