Wildlife of Madagascar is a blog post from the Madagascar category.

Wildlife of Madagascar

Posted by Will on

Back in August we spent four weeks travelling around Madagascar. Our aim was to photograph as much of the Island’s unique wildlife as possible. We had an incredible time and were overwhelmed by the diversity of animal species that we came across.

The Island of Madagascar split away from mainland Africa around 160 million years ago. This isolation created a laboratory in which animals could evolve into weird and wonderful forms in order to fill different ecological niches. Madagascar is now home to 5% of the world’s plant and animal species, of which more than 80% are endemic (i.e. they are found nowhere else on Earth).

Madagascar’s fantastic biodiversity is in part due to its highly varied habitats. These range from cool highland rainforests in East to arid deciduous and spiny forests in the West. We started our trip in the lush tropical rainforest of Amber Mountain National Park in the North of Madagascar.

A beautiful waterfall in Amber Mountain National Park.
A rainforest stream in Mantadia National Park.

We found that the rainforests were a haven for a large number of Madagascar’s famous chameleons. Almost half the World’s species of chameleon are found in Madagascar and we photographed a variety, ranging from the tiny Brookesia chameleons to the huge Oustalet’s Chameleon.

Brookesia, or leaf-mimicking chameleons, are the smallest chameleons in the World. They live on the ground and hunt tiny insects under the fallen leaves. Since they are only around 2cm long, we found it almost impossible to spot these little critters! Luckily our guide had an uncanny ability to find them on demand!

Blue-nosed Chameleon
Brookesia Chameleon
Amber Chameleon
Elephant-eared Chameleon

Of course other reptiles and amphibians were also plentiful in the rainforests. We went on numerous night walks and found some beautiful tree frogs. For the shots below, we worked as a team with one of us using the camera while the other held an off-camera flash pointing into a large white reflector. We used this “forest studio” set-up for almost all of our macro images (including the day shots).

Madagascar Tree Frog
Tree frog at night.

Madagascar also has some beautiful bird life. The first image below is an Amber Mountain Rock Thrush. This bird is only found in one National Park and is an example of how localised much of Madagascar’s wildlife is. Deforestation is a massive problem in Madagascar and many species are threatened by habitat loss.

The second image below is a Madagascar Malachite Kingfisher. This species is closely related to the Malachite Kingfisher of mainland Africa, but it is less dependent on water. We even saw one of these birds catching crabs on the beach!

Amber Mountain Rock Thrush
Madagascar Malachite Kingfisher

After the rainforest we drove west for a few hours and found ourselves in the dry deciduous forest of Ankarana National Park. En route we passed some spectacular formations know as “Red Tsingy”. These were carved by erosion and are unique to Madagascar.

The dry deciduous forests were teeming with lots of lovely little snakes and, safe in the knowledge that Madagascar has no dangerous snakes, we spent a long time attempting to get the perfect snake portrait!

Red Tsingy formed by erosion.
Common Big-eyed Snake

Later in the trip, we travelled down to the Southern Coast of Madagascar and for the first couple of days found ourselves in a perpetual storm! Photographing wildlife was difficult so we concentrated on landscapes and plant life.

In search of a moody seascape, we ventured out onto the slippery coastal rocks in the height of the storm. It was dusk, and the clouds were very dark, so we made use of the conditions and took some long exposures of the tumultuous sea. The image below shows the rain in the distance and the sea covering the rocks in front of us.

The area near the town of St. Luce is a boggy marshland and we found that carnivorous pitcher plants covered vast swathes of it! For some reason we find carnivorous plants irresistibly cool, so we happily dedicated an entire afternoon and morning to photographing them!

A long exposure of the stormy sea.
Carnivorous pitcher plants.

Last, but not least, we come to the ubiquitous lemurs. These are the true icons of Madagascar and everywhere we went we encountered a wonderful array of lemurs large and small. We will be dedicating an entire blog post to Madagascar’s lemurs so we’ve only included two shots below, one of a Ring-tailed Lemur and one of a Verreaux’s Sifaka (subscribe to our blog via email or RSS if you would like to be notified when we release the rest of our lemur shots).

Ring-tailed Lemur
Verreaux's Sifaka

Wildlife of Madagascar Talk

We could go on forever about the weird and wonderful wildlife of Madagascar and we plan to introduce you to some particularly interesting species in future blog posts. We will also be giving a talk about the wildlife of Madagascar on 24th October 2010 at the London Wetland Centre. You can find out more about the talk on our Facebook event page or on the Wetland Centre website. It will be a great day out and we hope to meet as many of you there as possible!

12 Comments

  1. Tory said: October 7, 2010 at 12:12 am

    nice shots :)

  2. Lucy Autrey Wilson said: October 7, 2010 at 4:30 am

    Love your site and the fabulous photos!

  3. Tim said: October 7, 2010 at 5:54 am

    Excellent shots! The macro setup works a treat!

    What brand is your reflector with the handle?

  4. Craig Booker said: October 7, 2010 at 9:41 am

    What awesome wildlife and nature images you are taking.
    What sort of equipment do you use for the images you take.
    I would one day love to own something like the Canon 7D of 5D MK11 with a large L series lense and or a macro lens.

    Well done.
    Craig.

  5. Will said: October 7, 2010 at 11:05 am

    Thanks guys!
    Tim – we use a Lastolite reflector.
    Craig – we used a Canon 1D mkIV & a Canon 1ds mkIII for these shots.

  6. alma said: October 7, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    the 1st frog photo has a very good contrast and the pitcher plant photo is wonderful… it inspires me to really learn the art of photography.

  7. vishvajit said: October 7, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    wow, what a lovely capture..

  8. Rako said: October 8, 2010 at 4:15 am

    Excellent images. i grew up in this country and you really got some true and amazing shots.

  9. Annie Ko said: October 12, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    what beautiful pictures, stumbled on your blog, great shots….

  10. Rako said: November 6, 2010 at 2:01 am

    Hey, did you filmed a little bit since you have mk IV’s ?? :)

  11. Srikumar said: October 11, 2011 at 6:04 am

    Great shots. :D Interested to know the shutter speed on image 13.

  12. Radu said: November 14, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    Love Madagascar, and also your pics and stories. MAkes me remember the good days there :)

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