Captain’s Log – 30 Oct 2017, 1542
Posted by Bernard Reller on
I be back with a new tale, scallywags!
I’m not in Madagascar anymore, but I still have a few things to share! Today I want to talk about a serious subject: conservation. Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world at 587,000 square km. Madagascar is home to almost 25,000 species of wild animals and over 11,000 endemic plant species, many of them on endangered species lists. In the span of 11 years (1999-2010), scientists discovered 615 new species, including 41 mammals and 61 reptiles! 75-80 percent of its wildlife is found nowhere else on earth. This is largely due to the island’s strange geological history.
Madagascar was once part of the supercontinent Gondwana. Gondwana existed sometime around 500-600 million years ago. It was the largest continental landmass on Earth, spanning an area roughly 100,000,000 square km. Around 160 million years ago, Madagascar lost contact from Africa (part of Gondwana supercontinent), then Antarctica, Australia and last, India. Antarctica, Australia and India all migrated quite far from Africa, and each other. But Madagascar stayed relatively close to the African continent, with only 400 km of sea separating it from Africa. Many of the endemic species remained with the island throughout its journey and evolved into forms that differed from their cousins on other continents. It is believed that animals and seeds that were swept out to sea from the Mozambique and Tanzanian rivers made their way to the island. This happened with the island’s lemurs around 54 million years ago and also the iconic Baobab tree around 20 million years ago.
Madagascar is amazing! However, nearly 90 percent of Madagascar’s biologically rich forests have been reduced through agriculture, deforestation, and other commercial activities. The people of the country are very poor and use the resources around them just to survive, adding to the problem.
On a positive note, there are many organizations working to set aside conserved lands. There are programs in place to educate the local population on conservation efforts, sustainable farming and fishing, and crafts. Programs have also been implemented in the local schools to educate the youth in these subjects as well. Extensive mapping and restoration efforts are underway on the reefs around Madagascar and the small islands surrounding it. In fact, here are some images of one of the reefs around Nosy Komba that has recently been protected.
The lemur is endemic to Madagascar, meaning that they are native and only found on Madagascar. As of 2014, there are five families, 15 genera, and 105 species and subspecies of lemur formerly recognized. Of those 105 species, 24 are classified as critically endangered, 49 endangered, 20 vulnerable, and three near threatened. Ring tailed lemurs are probably the most widely recognized. Below are some of the most common species of lemur.
The fossa is the largest carnivorous mammal on Madagascar. They look like a cat, a dog…a mongoose? They’re a cool combination of the three! They can grow up to six feet long, half of that length their tails. They are slender and muscular with short reddish-brown coats. They hunt both day and night, taking prey from both ground and trees. Lemur makes up a large portion of their diet, but they also eat small mammals, fish, lizards, birds, frogs and insects. Fossas are mainly solitary, with the exception of mothers with their young and breeding season. They’re extremely agile climbers. The long tails of the fossa provide balance among other physiological attributes that allow for agile climbing. Besides all these cool attributes…the fossa is rather cute!
The Comet Moth
The comet moth is gorgeous! It’s also one of the largest moths in the world, second in size only to the Atlas moth of Asia. Fully grown, their wingspan reaches almost 8” wide!
Madagascar is home to about half of the world’s 150 species of chameleons. The panther chameleon is one of the more well-known and popular types of chameleons. Males can grow up to 20 inches in length, but are usually around 17 inches. The ladies are about half that size. The panther chameleon is extremely vibrant, with the most color variations of all the chameleons. It is the most sought after chameleon for pets. They generally live around 5 years in the wild and up to 7 in captivity.
Satanic Leaf-Tailed Gecko
Check this baby out! The satanic leaf-tailed gecko is creepy cool. If I saw any of these guys in the wild, I didn’t see them they blend so well!
It’s amazing!!! This gecko is great at hiding. Its tail really looks like a leaf that’s been chewed on a bit by bugs. They vary widely in color, but are generally a shade of brown with some spots on the underside. As with other geckos, they have no eyelids, but a transparent membrane that covers the eye (which is super camaflauge as well!), that they lick to clean any foreign debris from. These critters are nocturnal and hunt small insects. Beneath their toes and fingers are strong adhesive scales and they have strong claws that help them move swiftly through trees. They’re another very sought after Malagasy critter for pets. This is contributing to an increased drop in their population.
They look a bit like small dragons!
There are so so many more to share! I will post again soon with more adventure and information about Madagascar!
Capt Ben Blood
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