Madagascar: stunning wildlife, landscapes, and cultural diversity

WildMadagascar.org highlights Madagascar's stunning wildlife, landscapes, and cultural diversity.

Madagascar is a land like no other. An island roughly the size of Texas or France, Madagascar is home to more than 250,000 species of which 70% are found nowhere else on the globe.



Geography: Madagascar can be divided into five geographical regions: the east coast, the Tsaratanana Massif, the central highlands, the west coast, and the southwest. The highest elevations parallel the east coast, whereas the land slopes more gradually to the west coast. Geography of Madagascar

Culture: are of the past; where in many areas taboo and tradition takes precedence over the law; and western-style religion is freely mixed with beliefs in sorcery and unparalleled funerary customs. The People of Madagascar

Plant biodiversity: Madagascar is home to as many as 12,000 plant species -- 70-80% of which are endemic -- making it one of the most diverse floras on the planet. Flora of Madagascar.

Animal biodiversity: Madagascar has some of the highest biodiversity on the planet. Of roughly 200,000 known species found on Madagascar, about 150,000 are endemic. Unique to the island are more than 50 types of lemurs, 99 percent of its frog species, and 36 genera of birds. Madagascar houses 100 percent of the world's lemurs, half of its chameleon species, 6 percent of its frogs, and none of its toads. Some species found in Madagascar have their closest relatives not in Africa but in the South Pacific and South America. Wildlife of Madagascar.

Madagascar News

Three new species of frogs found nestled in Madagascar’s pandan trees (February 1, 2024)


- Scientists have described three new frog species that dwell exclusively in the spiky leaves of pandan trees in Madagascar’s eastern rainforests.
- While the frogs are new to science, locals have observed them for generations, and they’ve been given names in Malagasy.
- The frogs have a unique life cycle completely restricted to the trees, meaning they entirely depend entirely on intact pandan trees.
- Pandan trees, from the genus Pandanus, are threatened by deforestation driven by mining, agriculture and development, while slashing, burning and deforestation threaten Madagascar’s extraordinary biodiversity in general.

Beyond the myths: Anthropologist Alison Richard on Madagascar’s environmental realities and future (January 3, 2024)


- Madagascar is celebrated for its extraordinary biodiversity, characterized by remarkably high rates of endemicism. However, Madagascar is also synonymous with loss, particularly the extinction of its largest animal species and the degradation of habitats.
- The conventional wisdom holds that the island was entirely forested before human settlement, with early settlers decimating most of these forests. Alison Richard, a distinguished anthropologist, has challenged this traditional narrative of Madagascar’s environmental history by leveraging a growing body of research that suggests a more nuanced reality.
- In “The Sloth Lemur’s Song,” Richard weaves a captivating story covering the island’s geological past to its current conservation challenges. Her work critically assesses the narratives of blame, stemming from colonial history, that have influenced perceptions of Madagascar’s environmental issues.
- In a recent interview with Mongabay, Richard discussed her research and conservation efforts in Madagascar and beyond.

Photos: Top species discoveries from 2023 (December 27, 2023)


- Scientists described a slew of new species this past year, including an electric blue tarantula, two pygmy squid, a silent frog, and some thumb-sized chameleons.
- Experts estimate less than 20% of Earth’s species have been documented by Western science.
- Although a species may be new to science, it may already be well known to local and Indigenous people and have a common name.
- Many new species of plants, fungi, and animals are assessed as Vulnerable or Critically Endangered with extinction as soon as they are found, and many species may go extinct before they are named, experts say.

Madagascar group aims to protect wildlife from stray cats & dogs (November 21, 2023)


- In the biodiverse forests of Madagascar, stray cats and dogs pose threats to wildlife by hunting and harassing wild animals or transmitting diseases to them.
- The Mad Dog Initiative, an American NGO, runs annual sterilization and rabies vaccination campaigns to reduce the strays’ impact.
- However, it will take more time to achieve measurable impacts on wildlife, the group’s leaders say, and raising awareness among villagers and overcoming “fadys,” or Malagasy taboos, remains a challenge.

Newly described gecko from Madagascar a master of disguise (September 14, 2023)


- Madagascar is a hotspot for gecko diversity, and the latest to appear on the tree of life is Uroplatus garamaso.
- U. garamaso, with a length of 8.3-13.9 cm (3.3-5.5 in), is one of the larger leaf-tailed lizards inhabiting the island, but is still a master at hiding in plain sight.
- The gecko’s known range is restricted to the forests in the north of the island: Montagne des Français, Montagne d’Ambre, and Ankarana in the Diana region.

Can land titles save Madagascar’s embattled biodiversity and people? (August 14, 2023)


- Through its Titre Vert or Green Title initiative, the Malagasy government is opening up a path to land ownership for its most vulnerable citizens in the hopes it will help tackle hunger, internal migration, and forest loss.
- The state is using the initiative to lean on potential migrants to remain in the country’s deep south, where five years of failed rains have left 2 million people hungry, instead of migrating north, where they are often blamed for social tensions and for destroying forests.
- This March, the Malagasy government started work on a Titre Vert enclave in the Menabe region, a popular destination for migrants from the drought-hit south, to dissuade them from clearing unique dry forests to grow crops.
- Critics say the government is holding people back in a rain-starved region without providing enough support; in Menabe, backers of the project hope to provide ample assistance to get migrants out of the forests and onto their feet.

Madagascar signs new ‘sustainable’ tuna deal with the EU (August 7, 2023)


- In late June, Madagascar and the European Union struck a new four-year deal allowing fishing vessels flagged to EU countries to resume harvesting tuna in Madagascar’s waters after an unusual four-and-a-half-year gap.
- The EU says the deal benefits Madagascar by providing key funding to support fisheries governance, and civil society groups praised the Madagascar government for creating a more inclusive and transparent negotiating process than in the past.
- However, critics contend that the deal offers little benefit to the citizens of Madagascar, one of the poorest countries in the world, and enables European vessels to exacerbate the overfishing of Indian Ocean tuna stocks.

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Books

Madagascar, 9th: The Bradt Travel Guide
Madagascar Wildlife, 3rd: A Visitor's Guide
Mammals of Madagascar: A Complete Guide
Madagascar Travel Pack
Birds of the Indian Ocean Islands
Birds of Madagascar: A Photographic Guide
Lonely Planet Madagascar & Comoros
The Natural History of Madagascar
Malagasy-English: Dictionary and Phrasebook
Lords and Lemurs
The Eighth Continent: Life, Death, and Discovery in the Lost World of Madagascar
The Aye-Aye and I : A Rescue Journey to Save One of the World's Most Intriguing Creatures from Extinction
Shadows in the Dawn: The Lemurs of Madagascar