The tenrec, another remarkable mammal.
Madagascar may be well known for its lemurs, but another remarkable mammal to be found on the island is the tenrec. Although some varieties resemble a hedgehog, even curl up into a prickly ball, they are not related. It seems they have a common ancestor with the elephant. Hard to believe as the smallest species is about 4.5 centimetres long and weighs about 0.5 grams. The tailless tenrec, another of the 34 different species, is special because of the number of young in one litter, 32 is not unusual. The yellow striped tenrecs communicate by vibrating together their spines; another unique characteristic, not to be found in any other animal. As all tenrecs are nocturnal it is not easy to spot them.

tenrec3 tenrec2 tenrec1

The Fosa is Madagascar’s largest predator – apart from the crocodile. It is a civet-like animal but it differs considerably from the African civets. An adult Fosa measures about two metres, the tail included. Like real cats the Fosa can draw its claws and is thus an expert climber. It feeds on lemurs. It is hard to spot the fosa as it is nocturnal and secretive. It should not be confused with the fanalouc and the falanoka, other predators, a bit smaller than the fosa. All three named foosa by the local population. Fosa 2 Fosa 3

The European Union has allocated 15 million Euro to support six countries around the Indian Ocean to sustainably improve their Coastal and Marine Biodiversity. The project will be implemented by the Indian Ocean Commission. The six countries concerned are the island Mauritius, the Comoros and Seychelles archipelagos and the countries Tanzania, Kenya and Madagascar. Part of the money – 4.5 million Euro – is designated for small projects by either NGO’s or elected local authorities.


The project is to counter the threats to the rich biodiversity with many endemic species, threats like uncontrolled exploitation of resources, including the waters of the Indian Ocean, degradation of the soil and invasive species that displace the endemic animals.


The true Darwin island

A month of diversity spent in just a small part of a majestic country leaves me thinking how many wondrous things are left to see in this part of the world. An impression of our holiday can be read in the following excerpts.

Primary rainforests with lemurs, spiders, centipedes, millipedes, frogs, gekko’s and chameleons in all sorts and sizes. Not to mention medicinal plants, pandanuce, palmtrees, rose wood and palissander.

The Canal des Pangalanes with its awe-inspiring lakes, white sandy beaches and fishing villages and all this is just a stone’s throw away from the relentless crashing and beating of the Indian ocean. Watching the fishermen braving the waves in small pirogues at first dawn is something I’ll never forget.

The humpback whales, just of the Isle Sainte Marie, did justice to their reputation by jumping from the water, splashing their fins and tales and performing an occasional spy hop.

Exceptional ‘off the beaten track’ days with the people from Fetraomby and the surrounding villages of Andranaotra, Lanonana and Razanaka. Trekking through primary rainforest whilst seeing various kinds of truly wild lemurs, wading through rivers and rice paddies whilst eating bananas and anon fruit straight from the tree. Meeting people living a simple but happy life surrounded by nature and the ones they love.

Many thanks to George and Marcia, from Centre Lambahoany in Tamatave, for putting us in to contact with the lovely and kind people of Madagascar. I hope they will continue this important work for many years to come so the Malagasy people can profit from tourism without losing their culture and biodiversity.


Photo: Canal des Pangalanes, Wikipedia



Rainforests of Atsinanana, East-Madagascar on the List of World Heritage in Danger

Last July the UNESCO World Heritage Committee inscribed the rainforests of Antsinanana on the List of World Heritage in Danger. Their reason to do so is: “…because of illegal logging and hunting of endangered lemurs on the site. The Committee noted that despite a decree outlawing the exploitation and export of rosewood and ebony, Madagascar continues to provide export permits for illegally logged timber. It also noted that countries that had ratified the World Heritage Convention are known destinations for this timber. The Committee urged Madagascar to take all necessary measures to enforce the decree and halt illegal logging activities. It also encouraged the State Party to organise a high level meeting of countries concerned to ensure that illegal timber originating from Madagascar is both banned and prevented from entering their national markets.

Lemurs are depending on the rainforest for survivalHaving completed its separation from all other land masses more than 60 million years ago, Madagascar’s plant and animal life evolved in isolation. The Rainforests of Atsinanana, comprising six national parks on the eastern side of the country, are critically important for maintaining ongoing ecological processes necessary for the survival of the island’s unique biodiversity, which reflects its geological history. Many species are rare and threatened, especially primates and lemurs.”

Some of our ecotreks include parts of the rainforests of Antsinanana. Our partners in Madagascar do their best to preserve the rainforests and together with other organisations counterbalance this devastating development.

Madagascar and the Indian Ocean islands surrounding it, such as Mauritius and the Seychelles, represent a so-called biodiversity hotspot. Only few places in the World have a similarly high diversity in plants and animals. On top of that many of the species found in this hotspot cannot be found anywhere else in the World. For instance, at least 90 percent of Madagascar’s reptiles are found only on Madagascar!

One type of reptile found in all colours and sizes is the smaller sized lizard known as gecko. Anyone who has ever met a gecko knows you cannot miss them. These funny little creatures are constantly calling out to each other by making chirping sounds.

Geckos come in two flavours, the party-all-night-long flavour and the early-riser-afraid-of-the-dark flavour. The nocturnal geckos usually have dull, brownish colours, while the day geckos are known as the ‘jewels of Madagascar’ because of their bright colours. I guess these geckos can’t have it all…

Camouflage Gecko
Camouflage Gecko

Most geckos have specialised scales in their feet with microscopic hooks on them, which allow them to cling to vertical surfaces and hang upside down. This results in geckos not only in your bed but also above it on the ceiling, next to you on the wall… they are literally all over the place.

But there is another funny thing about them: they lick their eyeballs! Once in a while you see their long, flat tongue shoot out of their mouth, land on their eyes and then slither back down into their mouth again… Yes, you heard it right! But they have good reason for this mildly weird behaviour. Their large, round eyes are only protected by single transparent scales, so no eyelids. It seems that these scales, just like the windscreen on your car, need to be cleaned once in a while, hence the licking of the eyeballs…

So, let’s consider the camouflage gecko. The mossy leaf-tailed or fringed gecko (genus Uroplatus) is an absolute master of disguise. At present 11 species are recognised, which differ in size from 6-7 cm up till 30 cm. But no matter how large they get, they are almost impossible to recognize, which the picture above illustrates. Their habitat is mostly rainforests but they are also found in deciduous forests, which lose their leafs in the fall. The larger species, as the one in the picture, tend to mimic tree bark, while the smaller ones look like dry leafs. I guess that’s why they are mostly found in rainforests, looking like a leaf in a leafless forest is not going to save you from the predators…

Information sources used for this text are Madagascar Wildlife: A Visitor’s Guide (Garbutt, Bradt and Schuurman, Bradt travel guide, April 2006) and the website


The biodiversity on Madagascar is huge, but so are the amount of threaths for conservation of the species and habitats.

The UN have called out the 22nd of May to be the international day of bioversity and 2010 the international year of biodiversity. Of course we couldn’t let this pass us by unnoticed, especially at the biodiversity hotspot that is Madagascar.

Park Ivoloina therefore organized several activities at their park during a 3 day event. The celebrations of the ‘day of biodiversity’ started at Centre Lambahoany. A day full of activities and events to create awareness on the importance of biodiversity, such as the election of Miss and Mr Biodiversité from at least 400 schoolchildren. B-Sarouk gave a wonderfull performance. After this the celebrations continued with a defilé towards Avenue de l’Independance in the city center of Tamatave.

The following days the celebration continued at Park Ivoloina, a recreational, zoological and educational park, with expositions and explainations on the biodiversity in the region. We have learned about the threatened fish populations  offshore, the diversity of animals which live in the region and special attention for the bees, who are starting to disappear in the region. The latter would be a devastating trend because without the bees the fruits can’t survive, and the litchis is the nr. 1 industry here.

So let’s celebrate and protect the biodiversity of Madagascar!