Disappearing Species of Madagascar, Part I
It is around 100 million years ago that the island of Madagascar was joined to both the continents of Africa and India and just a few million years later that they separated.
Then , for many millions of years the species on Madagascar were left in peaceful and splendid isolation, and it is for this reason that it has its own unique biodiversity and that all that flora and fauna flourished. It is mostly endemic to the island, and certainly the majority of species there are found nowhere else on the planet.
All are interdependent, and the bio-systems were extremely well developed, that is until 2000 years ago when Man arrived on Madagascar.
Most of the biodiversity is to be found in the rain forests or rather it WAS to be found there. Bur, these are disappearing at the rate of 9 million cubic metres each year. And, as Madagascar is the fourth largest island on the planet that kind of loss is intolerable.
Madagascar is situated in the Indian Ocean approximately 400 kms off the Southeastern coast of Africa.
It has 204 extant mammal species and of these it is known that 6 are Critically Endangered, 30 Endangered, 30 Vulnerable, 6 Near Threatened and at least 66 have yet to be recorded properly.
And that is just the mammals!!
Half of all the worlds Chameleons live on Madagascar and of these there are 59 different species which are unique to the island.
This amazing animal has eyes which have 360 degrees of vision and the ability to change colour.
It was originally thought that they did this to camouflage themselves, however,it is now known that in fact their colours change in a response to temperature, light changes and mood. Communication is also an important part of colour changing, particularly during the mating seasons.
Although there are a good number of species, there are many that are rare and possibly more that are unrecorded or may have already become extinct. One of these is Chamaeleo belalndaensis which has only small localized habitat left in degraded gallery forest. Not only has it lost large amounts of habitat but is also collected and sold for the Pet Trade, and for these 2 reasons alone there is speculation that it is Vulnerable , and possibly heading for Extinction.
These totally unique mammals belong to the sub-order Strepsirhini , and left the African Continent 62-65 million years ago. It is believed they rafted over on loads of green vegetation.
They are unique to Madagascar!!
All Lemurs are on the Conservation Lists as Endangered to Vulnerable to Threatened, because of habitat destruction, hunting by men and they also have natural predators. In fact there is only 10% of their original wild habitat that is left. They did in fact at one time live all over Madagascar.
There are 60 "taxa" of Lemurs (species,subspecies and populations from 33 species across 5 families and 14 genera ).
The Lemurs range in size from the smallest which is the Pygmy Mouse Lemur to the Indiri and there are still new species being discovered. There is of course as with the chameleons some that have been extinct for many thousands of years and those that have disappeared since man came to the island. The larger of the Lemurs are diurnal(awake and feeding during daylight hours), whereas the smaller are nocturnal.
They are all vocal, each having its own distinctive call, and are mostly arboreal. They have a highly variable diet which includes fruit,vegetation, native herbs and insects.
The Fossa (Cryptoprocta ferox) .
This animal is the largest of the carnivores on Madagascar and was thought to have first inhabited the island 18-20 million years ago. It is closely related to the Mongoose family and is endemic to the island.
The classification of the Fossa is controversial because of its conflicting physical traits. It has some resembling cats yet others that resemble vivernid(Civets).
This animal is the largest of Madagascar's carnivores, has semi retractable nails and unusually flexible wrists making it able to climb up and down trees head first and jump from tree to tree. Inhabits solely forested area and hunts by night and day. Its diet is 50% lemurs the rest made up of Tenrecs,rodents, lizards and birds.
The Fossa is also unusual because it mates on the horizontal limbs of trees and this mating can last for a few hours. Great balance??
The main threat to their numbers is habitat destruction, and with illegal logging continuing this problem is only going to get worse.
Conservation Status is listed as Vulnerable.
This is the first in a series of hubs I am going to do about Madagascar. It is so unique in its Biodiversity and it is being plundered so badly in many ways. As numbers change I will update each hub, and as there are new and exciting discoveries I will put in that data too. This is such a fascinating journey to take. I hope all who read will find it that way too.