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Verreaux’s Sifaka

Madagascar, often referred to as the 8th Continent due to its abundant variety of unique fauna and flora, is quite simply one of those places that every nature enthusiast must visit at some point in their life. From leaping lemurs and exotic birds to crazy insects and an abundance of ridiculously sized chameleons, Madagascar is an evolutionary wonderland of the most immense proportion.

Sadly, the wonders of Madagascar are under extreme threat, and the island’s extraordinary biodiversity is at risk of being lost forever. Continued illegal logging and a growing population that is largely dependent on charcoal for energy means that the last remaining intact habitat for wildlife is under extreme pressure, and many species are now on the brink of extinction. In fact, we already know of at least 17 species and 8 genera that are believed to have become extinct since the arrival of humans on the island roughly 2,000 years ago. Many of these species were large, with some weighing an estimated 200kg! The largest species, a type of giant sloth lemur, was larger than a female gorilla.

Fortunately, we have seen the mass habitat destruction decrease appreciably over the last 25 years, and while the remaining resources are under pressure, much has been protected in national parks and other reserves. Another positive factor is the effect that eco-tourism has had on the country, where many local people have seen a meaningful change for the better. Here, locals have the opportunity to add value for visiting tourists that are keen on seeing all sorts of creatures, from lemurs and birds to trees, frogs, insects, orchids, chameleons and so much more. The increase in tourism also leads to more lodging requirements, and these in turn supply employment opportunities to the local community. There are many other positive influences that eco-tourism has had within the country, but the reality is that without it a lot of what can be seen today would probably cease to exist.

While tourists visit Madagascar for many different reasons, most would certainly list seeing a lemur as a major priority. These adorable creatures have a lot of personality and most people certainly associate these incredible animals strongly with their thoughts of Madagascar. Currently, there are 115 lemur species recognised, and the number is growing almost every year. Many of these species are highly localised and, sadly, over 80% are listed as critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable! Thankfully, seeing a wide variety of lemur species, including many that are severely threatened, in the country’s protected reserves is not too difficult, and on our regular 12-day tour we often find over 20 different species!

Our featured image this month is the dapper Verreaux’s Sifaka, one of several phenomenal lemur species that we are likely to find on our tours. This particular species is well-known for its bipedal movements when crossing open ground, which makes them look as though they are dancing. Found in the south of the country in pockets of dry deciduous woodland and spiny forest, it is now listed as endangered according to the IUCN Red Data List. Getting to spend time with this beautiful species and many others are just a handful of the incredible experiences that Madagascar is likely to produce. Below is a list of the top 10 wildlife sightings from our most recent trip in November 2018. We feel it really reflects the exceptional diversity of what Madagascar has to offer.

1. Watching a pair of singing Indri – the largest of all extant lemurs.
2. Time spent with a nesting pair of Scaly Ground Rollers.
3. The exceptionally brightly coloured Baron’s Mantella.
4. A very close encounter with a Greater Hedgehog Tenrec on one of our many night walks.
5. The ‘dancing’ Verreaux’s Sifakas.
6. A handful of minute Goodman’s Mouse Lemurs – one of the smallest of all primates.
7. Comical, and confiding, family groups of the iconic Ring-tailed Lemur.
8. Finding the critically endangered Madagascan Fish Eagle.
9. A duo of impressive Giant Hog-nosed Snakes.
10. The striking Madagascan Paradise Flycatcher, including both rufous and pied forms.

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