Madagascar, Madagascar wildlife, lemur, lemurs, chameleons, geckos, the grange cl wildlife journal, wild life tour, animals,

Madagascar Adventure Tour November 2016

Prologue

Why we Loved Madagascar

Madagascar is the world’s fourth-largest island with an area of about 587,041 square kilometres or 226,658 square miles with a population of around 22,000,000 people as of 2013. It sits around 250 miles of the South African coast of Mozambique. Madagascar is unlike anywhere we have been to – fantastically beautiful, amazingly diverse for its size and still mostlyunspoiled. Vast tracts throughout the country are virtually uninhabited and seldom explored, nothing comes easy here making the best of Madagascar can be challenging to explore. Madagascar is classed as one of the world’s 17 diverse countries that are considered to be home to the majority of the world’s endemic bio-diverse species. With over 70% of the 250,000 wildlife species found in Madagascar are found nowhere else on the planet. While 90% of the estimated 14,000 plants native to Madagascar are also found nowhere else. The lemur is only found in the wild in Madagascar. As of 2012, there were 103 living species of lemur in Madagascar, including sub-species. The majority of these are classified as rare or endangered. Several species of lemur such as the giant lemur have become extinct in the past, mainly due to extensive deforestation. The unique ecology of Madagascar has led some scientists to refer to the country as the "eighth continent" of the world. Madagascar has the 3rd largest coral reef system in the world, the Toliara coral reef, off the south-western coast.

However, Madagascar should be one of the top destinations around the world to visit for wildlife? We have both travelled to many different countries around the world in our time together, fifty plus, ‘cough’, ‘cough’ plus years. Madagascar must be one of the most poorest we have visited it ranked 37 in 2011as the poorest country in the world. Sheltered housing to a Madagascan would mean maybe just about roof over his head with no mod cons. Fridges, washing machines machines and even TVs are a luxury; most homes even regard electricity as a luxury. The women either wash their clothes in a running stream or river. Cooking is down over an open fire. I dread thinking what the loo arrangements are? Most towns and cities (not like our cities) you drive through the shops are no better than open fronted sheds directly onto the road. The main roads are no wider than our B roads. There are no dual carriageways or motorways. I shall never complain about the state of the UK roads again. The road tarmac surface may disappear for a Km or more and resemble nothing more than a hard-core track littered with potholes' several cms deep.

But for those who relish an adventure, this is a one-of-a-kind destination: the off-road driving is phenomenal, there are national parks that only see a few hundred visitors a year, regions that live in self-sufficiency during the rainy season and resorts so remote you’ll need a private plane or boat to get there. There are also more activities than you'll have time for: trekking, diving, mountain biking, kitesurfing, rock-climbing, you name it. Oh, and there are plenty of natural pools, beaches and hammocks to recover too after an eventful day out.

We travelled the journey from Antananirivo or Tana the capital to the coast Ifaty around 1300 km in a Hyundai 4x4 which was a few years old, but in excellent condition. We have owned Mitsubishi Shoguns in the past but this Hyundai was extremely comfortable, quiet and smooth running a match for any vehicle. Our driver 'Dude' a Madagasgian was excellent and never once did we experience a problem with his driving abilities, and never did we experience a back jarring moment travelling on or off the roads. The accommodation that Rainbow Tours arranged for us on this tour we could not complain about for quality, comfort and food experience. We were warned before leaving the UK that at times of the day you may have limited electricity, cell phone connection and Wi-Fi, and Internet usage would be a luxury. None of this spoilt us enjoying our stay in Madagascar. The local people we met on our travels were all very friendly and kind towards you. Our guide explained to us that there are around eighty different tribes in Madagascar, and they all appear to get on with each other without trouble.

Click on crossed square for full screen on each Slide Show


It’s hard to believe why Madagascar is so poor cindering the wealth of minerals, there are here. Madagascar is one of the world’s main suppliers of vanilla and cloves, while coffee, lychees and shrimp are also important agriculturally. The country currently provides half of the world's supply of sapphires and produces a number of other precious and semi-precious stones.

However, approximately 70 percent of the population lives below the national poverty line threshold of $1 per day. They must look at most westerners and think they are millionaires in comparison.

The Malagasy people like their sport with rugby and football (soccer) the top attractions.

The images of 'Everyday Life' were taken on burst mode on Cannon Powershot SX50 & iPhone SE from our tour vehicle on the move. No one in the images was aware of themselves being caught on camera. The scenes on the coast was taken from the La Paradise beach bungalow on Cannon Powers hot SX50.

Malagasy people have a number of traditional pastimes. Moraingy is a type of hand-to-hand combat, tolon-omby the wrestling of zebu cattle. We were told by our tour guide that you did not become a man until you have wrestled a zubu. I asked him if he had wrestled a zubu, he answered no; he had only wrestled his wife, and that was bad enough experience for him. The Malagasy people play a board game called Fanorona which was invented there.


Our Madagascar Adventure Tour November 2016, orginised by Rainbow Tour Specilists, Holborn, London.

November 3rd 2016.

Map 1;

Our Madagascar Adventure started with a long-haul flight with air France from Heathrow airport, London (06:20 hours) via Charles de Gaulle, airport Paris and then on to Antananarivo, also known as Tana the capital of Madagascar arriving at 23h35. Madagascar is three hours ahead of Greenwich meantime. We were welcomed at the airport by a Rainbow Tour’s local representative and transferred for a one-night stay to a convenient hotel near the airport the Relais des Plateataux.

Map 2;

November 4th

After a good night’s sleep and breakfast, we were collected around 08:30 hours from the hotel by our Rainbow Tours Guide, Lala and driver, Dude for our adventure through Madagascar. A journey that would take us from the capital Antananarivo, touring south to the coast around 1300 km to Renisala Reserve.

We departed from the hotel and journeyed east by road and got our first glimpse of some traditional Madagascar village culture along the way. We arrived at Vakona Forest Lodge for a two-night stay to visit Perinet /Andadisble National Park, Madagascar’s premier rainforest reserve; this is one of the easiest parks in Madagascar to visit from the capital, Antananarivo. It is around 154 km (96mls) drive, which was around 3 .5 -hour drive east on a paved road,Route nationale 2 (RN2) is a primary highway in Madagascar,, running from the capital Antananarivo to Toamasina on the east coast of the country. This rainforest is habitat to a vast number of diverse species of wildlife, including many endemic rare species and endangered species, including 11 lemur species. The park's two-component parts are Mantadia National Park and Analamazoatra Reserve, which is best known for its population of Madagascar's largest lemur, the indri with a distinct eerie whale-like call that can be heard from several kms away. To enter the parks you require a pass and to be companied by a local guide at all times. The park guide's knowledge of wildlife and where to spot the different species was outstanding. Our tour guide was also with us at all times to give us a helping hand and to seek out any creatures that the local guide may have missed. Most of the local guides at each reserve or park we visited had been handpicked in advance of our visit by our tour guide for their expertise and local knowledge of the wildlife. Our two-night stay at the Vakona Lodge included night walks along the forest roads to spot the nocturnal creatures which were also rewarding, this also required the assistance of a local guide. The only disappointing point of our stay here was it poured down with rain all day Saturday 5th November. However, we still went out trekking through the rainforest, it did not spoil the day for seeing wildlife. However, even with waterproof macs we still finished up like drowned rats at the end of our time out around four hours. Thankfully, this was the only day it rained for the entire trip.

Map 3;

November 6th

We travelled South for around 293 km (182 miles) to Antsirable in the central plateaux the journey took us best part of the day with several short stops on the way for sightseeing and lunch before arriving at Couleur Café, around 17.00 hours for a one-night stay.

Map 4;

November 7th to 9th.

Before we continued on our journey, we spent a short time in Antsirable Town. We drove down Independence Avenue to visit the great monument of the 18 tribes that make up the population of Madagascar. It gives you some insight into the history of Malagasy culture at a glance. When you look upon this landmark, you realise just how spectacular and diverse Malagasy culture is. The landmark offers a deeper understanding among the people who inhabit this incredible country. The monument in Antsirable features the head of a zebru and the column above portrays the names of the eighteen tribes which make up the Madagascar population. The round stone disk to the left of the monument with the word ‘Fahaleovantena’ meaning Independence and the first two measures of the Madagascar National anthem.

ANTHEM LYRICS - ENGLISH TRANSLATION

O, our beloved fatherland,

O, fair Madagascar,

Our love will never decay,

But will last eternally.

CHORUS

O, Lord Creator, do Thou bless

This Island of our Fathers,

That she may be happy and prosperous

For our own satisfaction.

O, our beloved fatherland,

Let us be thy servant

With body, heart and spirit

In dear and worthy service.

CHORUS

O, our beloved fatherland,

May God bless thee,

That created all lands;

In order He maintains thee.

CHORUS

ANTHEM LYRICS IN OFFICIAL LANGUAGE

Ry Tanindrazanay malala

Ry Madagasikara soa

Ny fitiavanay anao tsy miala,

Fa ho anao doria tokoa

Fiverenana

Tahionao, ry Zanahary

Ity Nosin-dRazanay ity

Hiadana sy ho finaritra

He! Sambatra tokoa izahay.

Ry Tanindrazanay malala

Irinay mba hanompoana anao

Ny tena sy fo fanahy anananay,

'Zay sarobidy sy mendrika tokoa.

Ry Tanindrazanay malala

Irinay mba hitahiana anao,

Ka ilay Nahary izao tontolo izao


>

Each tribe of the 18 ethnical groups, differ from each other by the clothes they wear, their own dialect, different facial features as well as even sometimes skin paintings. Around 50% of Malagasy people are known to be Christians, most others still live by the old traditions with their own tribal beliefs and legends.


The 18 ethnic group/tribes names

Antaifasy,

Antaimoro, Antaisaka, Antambahoaka, Antakarana, antanosy, Antandroy, Bara, Betsileo, Betsimisaraka, Bezanozano, Mahafaly, Merina, Sakalava, Sihanaka, Tanala, Tsimihety and Zafisoro




After our short time in Antsirable Town we continued around 227 Km (141 mls) to Ranomafana a rich and breath-taking montana rainforest, characterised by rolling hills, cloud forest, streams and areas of dense vegetation rich in flora and fauna with more species of lemur than any other reserve n Madagascar. Our three-night stay here was at Setam lodge. Where we explored the rain forest during the days as well as night walks. We were fortunate to see many different species of lemur Golden Bamboo lemur, Red-bellied lemur, Milne-Edward sifaka. We also encountered many different Chameleons, Geckos, Snakes, frogs and many other weird and wonderful creatures big and small.

Map 5;

November 10th

Leaving Setam Lodge this morning we travelled onwards down the Route National (RN7) for around 47 Km (29 Mls) before arriving in the region of Ambalavao a spectacular granite domed region for an overnight stay at La Varangue de Betsileo owned by a delightful French couple.

Map 6:

November 11th & 12th

The next morning we were up early for breakfast 06:30 hours and departed around 07:15 hours for a short drive nearby to the Anjaha Community Conservation site for our first encounter to see many troops of the Ring tailed lemur. Getting here early was a bonus; we were the first visitors during the day and saw many troops of Ring-tailed Lemur and other species in their entire spender. The advantage of being in a small group (four persons) local guide, tour guide, Pat and me. We could creep about in relatively quietness and not disturb any wildlife we would encounter. Other larger groups we would fall upon at times but quickly leave behind us would be making so much noise it made you wonder if they were there for a social gathering and not to see the wonderful wildlife on offer.

We spent a few hours in the Anjaha Community Conservation site until the site became busy with other tourists. However, those few hours were most rewarding for the many different species of wildlife we encountered.

We picked up the RN7 and continued to travel further south for around 6.5 hours around 420 Km (270 mls) drive to Isalo National Park for a 2 night stay at the Relais de la Reine. Isalo landscape is unlike anywhere else in Madagascar. The terrain is dotted with sandstone outcrops, canyons and rare plants like the Baobab trees resembling something from the prehistoric times. There are rocky paths leading down to secret turquoise pools and waterfalls. We encountered one of the most iconic lemurs here the ‘dancing’ Verreaux’s Sifaka and the Ringtailed lemur. At night, we went out in search of the Madagascar Scopes Owl and Madagascar Nightjar which we were fortunate to see by the help of our tour guide who attracted the birds to us with a recording of the birds call on his smart phone.

Map 7:

November 13th & 14th

We departed Isalo headed further south again on the RN7 for around an hour’s drive to Zombitse Forest National Park for a birding and wildlife walk in this fantastic transition forest. Apart from the many unusual colourful birds, we saw, the forest is also home to the Verreaux’s Sifaka, ringtail and brown lemurs. Other species we saw were grass snake, ground boa constrictor many reptiles chameleons, geckos and weird insects of varying colour. After leaving Zombitse, we continued our journey for another three hours stopping at Arboretum de Antsokay a fantastic 67 ha botanical gardens with many bizarre flora of the sub-arid south as well has many birds and reptiles. The further we have moved south the hotter and dryer it has become. When we arrived in Tana the capital on the 3rd November, the temperature was around 75 deg and overcast. It is now 30 deg plus with clear skies. This area has not seen rain for quite some time I was told.

It is around mid-afternoon, and we have a further ninety-minute drive passing the local Mahafaly and Antandroy tombs on the way to our last destination before returning to the capital for our return flight back to the UK..

Map 8;

When we arrived at the Le Paradisier, Ifaty for our two night stay, this place certainly lived up to its name ‘Paridise’. Our accommodation for the two nights was a thatched bungalow on the beach within meters from the shore line, and the restaurant was elevated and open looking out over the ocean within touching distance from the shoreline. I had to pinch Pat, at one time; she fought she was dreaming; this was truly a fantastic end to a holiday with so many wonderful memories a journey of a lifetime.


Accommodation on Route


Sunset from our stone bungalow on the beach at La Paradisier.


Our last trip into the Spiny Bush on the morning of the 14th November saw us up and out at 'Sparrow Fart time' of 04:30 hours for 30-minute drive to the Spiny Bush. This time of the day is the best time to see the wildlife in this area before the sun gets too hot around 10:00 hours, and to be away from the madding crowd of other tourists. We were not disappointed again by our tour and local guide. With the wonderful wildlife, we saw. The most remarkable being a very rare small lemur that there are only a few of in the area and have not yet been finally named. However, our local guide ‘Soldier’ having seen this small lemur on many occasions had nicknamed the species ‘Black Soldier’ which seemed appropriate name. See what you think?

We returned to ‘Paradise’ around 10:00 hours for breakfast and spent the rest of the day relaxing on the veranda of our thatched beach home. Snoozing in the hammocks watching the local children having fun sailing their home-made boats in the waves. The local people landing their small sailed fishing boats and pulling the nets in with the days catch in them. We watched the local women scouring the beach for pretty shells to make jewellery with to sell to tourists.

Our last night here was spent over dinner with our number-one tour guide ‘Lala’ and number one driver ‘Dude’ reminiscing on all the wonderful moments we have had on our travels through Madagascar together. It was a truly and amazing experience that we will never forget.


Blue listings are recorded wildlife sightings throughout our tour. However, not all the species recorded I was fortunate to capture on camera.


Birds

Madagascar is home to around 258 different species of birds

Birds 41

Pied Crow, Egret, Kingfisher, Black Heron, Yellow Billed Kite, Madagascar Buzzard, Madagascar Kestral, Madagascar Coucal, Madagascar Scopes Owl, Speckled Tetrakka, Brown Throuted Martin, Ground Roller, Blue Vanga Coua, Madagascar Hoopoe, Madagascar Cuckoo, Turtle Dove, Blue Coua, Madagascar Cuckoo shrike, Madagascar Harrier Hawk, Madagascar Partridge, Sub desert Mesite, (common Quail or Madagascar Button Qual), Madagascar Dove, Madagascar Blue Pigeon, Running Coua, (African Palm Swift or Madagascar Palm Swift, Long Tailed Ground Roller, Madagascar Cuckoo roller, Madagascar Wagtail, Madagascar Magpie Robin, Madagascar Brush Warbler, Madagascar Sub desert Brush Warbler, Madagascar Paridise Flycatcher, Madagascar Green Sunbird, Madagascar Blue Vanga, Madagascar Pied Crow, Common Myna, Madagascar Red Fody,

Cannon Powershot SX50 Madagascar Bird Images



Lemur

103 species of Lemur in Mafagascar

Lemur 18

Mouse Lemur, Goodmans Mouse Lemur, Greater Dwarf Lemur, Eastern Bambo sifakas Lemur, Red Bellied Lemur, Diademed Sifaka, Indri, Golden Bamboo Lemur, Red Fronted Brown Lemur, Black White Ruffed Lemur, Greater Bamboo Lemur, Sifaka, Ring Tailed Lemur, Red Tailed Sportive Lemur, Red Bellied Lemur, Verreaux’s sifaka Lemur, Not identified (black soldier lemur)

Cannon Powershot SX50 Madagascar Lemur Images

We encountered the Indri Lemur in Andasible National Park. The Indri was directly above our heads; its call was deafening.



Chameleons'

Madagascar is home to around half of the world's species of Chameleons’ that are unique and exist nowhere else in the world.Chameleons range from just a few cm to around 70 cm size. The tiny pygmy leaf chameleon, found in the jungles of Madagascar, is the smallest species of chameleon with some males measuring less than 3 cm long.

The largest species of chameleon, the Malagasy giant chameleon, is found in the jungles of Madagascar and can grow to nearly 70 cm in length. Parson's chameleon, also found in Madagascar can grow to around 65 cm in length. Contrary to belief, a chameleon typically does not change colours to match its surroundings. Instead, colour is usually used to convey emotions, defend territories, and communicate with mates.

Other easily noted characteristics of chameleons include bulging eyes that move independently of one another, feet fixed in a grasping position, and the existence of horns or crests on the heads of many species.Some species have long extensile tongues for catching insects or small vertebrates at a distance sometimes greater than the length of their body.

Furthermore Chamelions are adapted for living and moving about in trees, the species have tails used for grasping objects when climbing and moving.

Madagascar as some 82 species of known Chameleon species all endemic

Chameleons 9

Parsons Chameleon, Nose Horned Chameleon, Short Horned Chameleon, Short Nosed Chameleon, O’Shughnessy’s Chameleon, Stump Tailed Chameleon, Outtalet’s Chameleon, Petter’s white-lipped Chameleon, Jewel Chameleon,

Chameleon imagescaptured on tour Images from Cannon Powershot SX50 & IPhone SE


Geckos

The island of Madagascar is home to a pretty amazing and diverse collection of geckos, with nearly 103 species from 11 different genera.

Gecko 4

Mossy-tailed Gecko, Leaf-tailed Gecko, Giant day Gecko, Big headed Gecko,

Frogs

Madagascar is home to more amphibian species, of frogs, than any other African country; remarkably, 100% of these species, and most genera, are endemic. Evedence suggests there may be around 450 different species.

Frogs 10

Tree Frog, Boophis Viridis, Mantella Boroni, Painted Mantella, The painted burrowing frog, Mantella expectata, Boophis bottae, Boophis virids, Boophis luteus, Boophis madagascariensis,


Insects

There are over 20,000 insect species in Madagascar. To identify each insect correctly proved difficult by the lack of reference books written on the insect species of Madagascar. Those that are listed below are in species group name or individual name if known.

Stick insects and Mantids are unique insects it requires a sharpe eye to spot them on a tree branch or amongst leaves. Both insects share the same characteristics, sush as camouflag for defence, however, they differ in feartures, habit and diet.

Insects, numerous

Mantids, Bark Mantids, Preying Mantids, Stick insects,Hissing Cockcrouch, Cockcrouchs, Sheild bugs, Giraffe-necked weevil, weevils, Jewel beetles, leaf bugs, Crickets, Katydids, grasshoppers, locust, earwigs, Assassin bugs, Milkweed bugs, Burrowing bugs, Pill bugs, Ladybird bugs, Leaf hopper, Aphids, Wasps, Bees, Knats, Mosquitos, Bark Antilions, Ground Beetles, Dung Beetles, Scareb BeetleS, Chafer,

Cannon Powershot SX50 Madagascar Insect Images

Iphone SE Madagascar Insect Images


Butterflies

Madagascar as around 297 known species of Butterfly with 210 of these endemic. Those that are listed below are in species group name or individual name if known.

Butterfles

Skippers, Monarch, swallowtail, orange tip, cabbage white, grass yellow, charaxes, copper, blues,

Butterfly Images captured on tour



Moths

Moths of Madagascar represent about 2,680 known moth species. Moths (mostly nocturnal) and butterflies (mostly diurnal) together make up the taxonomic order Lepidoptera. Those that are listed below are in species group name or individual name if known

Moths

Slug moth, lattice moth, white pearl, grass moths, emerald & Emperor moths, Hawk moths, tiger moths, footman moths, ballworm moths.

Snake Images captured on tour from Cannon Powershot SX50 & IPhone SE


Reptiles

Madagascar is a paridise for herpetologists ( the study of reptiles and amphibianas) there aremore than 400 reptile species and new ones still being discovered . Some 92% of these are endemic

Madagascar is home to three other families of lizard the Iguanid, Plated lizard and skinks.

Lizard

Iguanid, Plated Lizard,

Madagascar is home to around 80 species of snake

Snakes

Grass Snake, Boa Constricter, Lthycphus Oursi,

Snake Images captured on tour from Cannon Powershot SX50 & IPhone SE



Bats

Madagascar as around 37 bat species confirmed with 26 of them endemic to the island

Bats

Commerson’s Leaf-Nosed Bat,

Isalo National Park Visit, rest stop for lunch. Pat spotted the bat in the slideshow resting in the peak of the roof area above my head about 4m (13ft) high.

Image taken on Cannon SX50


Dragonflies

Madagascar has approximately 175 species of Odonata. Dragonflies ( Anisoptera ) represent 60% which are endemic and of the Damselfly (Zygoptera) almost 95%.

Dragonflies


Spiders

There are over 470 species of spiders on Madagascar

Spiders

Orb-web Spider (male & female), Net-thowing spider,



Scorpions

60 plus species of Madagascar Scorpions

Scorpion

Large-clawed Scorpion, Dwarf scorpion, Emperior Scorpion.


Madagascar Plant Species;

There are around 12,000 plant species found in Madagascar of which possible eighty percent is endemic. It is one of the most diverse floras on the planet for the Islands size.
Below is just a sample of the many endemic plant species found in Madagascar.
Madagascar is home to nearly 1000 species of Orchids; most of these are endemic.
The Spiny Forest /desert plant species are 95% endemic throughout the region.
There are eight species of Baobab trees found throughout the world six are endemic to Madagascar.
Madagascar can boast 10 families and 260 plant genera that are endemical. Only Australia has more endemical plant species.
Madagascar is home to 170 Palm species of which 165 are endemic.
Our tour guide informed us that many of the plant species are used to treat many illnesses by the Madagascar people.Depending on the illness, people may seek the help of local healers who use the island’s rich flora, traditional healers have access to many plants with medicinal qualities. Plants are collected from forests or arid areas, depending on the region and the healer’s knowledge. Medicinal plants can usually be dried to provide a year-round supply
Forest Fauna Images taken on tour through Madagascar on 1-47 Galazy TAB3 & 48-63 Cannon SX50


Madagascar Tortoises

There are four species of Tortoises that exist in Madagascar today, they are among the rarest in the world, and all are endemic. The best-known and largest is the Plowshare tortoise. The island is also home to four turtle species, one of which is endemic.

Galaxy TAB3 & Cannon SX50 images


Madagascar Wildcat seen in the Zombitse Forest National Park.



Epilogue

I hope you enjoyed viewing our trip through Madagascar has much as we enjoyed travelling through this weird and wonderful country experiencing some amazing wildlife you will never see anywhere else on the planet. Madagascar is among the world's poorest countries. As such, people's day-to-day survival is dependent upon the use of natural resources. In 2012, the population of Madagascar was estimated at just over 22 million, 90% of whom live on less than $2 ( £0. 80 pence) per day. To become doctors, lawyers, sports stars, factory workers, or secretaries; is beyond most Malagasy people’s wildness dreams. Their only option is to live off the land that surrounds them, making use of whatever resources they can find. Their poverty costs the country and the world through the loss of the island's endemic plant and animal life. Travelling through Madagascar you see at first-hand the environmental degradation that’s taking place over a significant part of its land mass. Our visit to the Spiny forests to the south. We witnessed the native plant species rapidly giving way to "cactus scrub" as indigenous vegetation is cut and burned for subsistence and charcoal production. We were told by many National Park Rangers every year as much as a third of Madagascar burns. Fires are set for land-clearing and pastureland spread into adjacent wild lands, causing damage to the island's unique ecosystems. Deforestation in Madagascar is largely the result of three activities:

Tavy or slash-and-burn agriculture.

Tavy is the lifeblood of Malagasy culture and the Malagasy economy. Tavy is mostly used for converting tropical rainforests in Madagascar into rice fields. Typically, an acre or two of forest is cut, burned, and then planted with rice. After a year or two of production, the field is left fallow for four to six years before the process is repeated. After two or three such cycles, the soil is exhausted of nutrients, and the land is likely colonized by scrub vegetation or alien grasses. On slopes, the new vegetation is often insufficient to anchor soils, making erosion and landslides a problem. Tavy is the most expedient way for many Malagasy to provide for their families, and where day-to-day subsistence is a question. There is a little concern for the long-term consequences of the actions. From this perspective, as long as there is more forest land freely available for clearing, you might as well use the land before a neighbour does. Tavy for rice also has spiritual and cultural ties that transcend the economic and nutritional value of rice as a crop.

Logging for timber

Logging for timber is especially a problem in the rainforests of eastern Madagascar. The high value for Malagasy hardwoods of ebony and rosewood, in particular, which can fetch around $2,000 (£1, 600 a ton around the world. This makes illegal logging a considerable challenge in some protected areas.

Hope lays in world organizations working together to protect areas and generate an income for the local communities. As Malagasy begins to reap benefits from conservation-related activities, it is important that they not reinvest this income in activities that result in further deforestation. Traditionally in many villages, the more money someone made, the more money was put back into land-clearing. Rural banks and savings institutions are virtually unknown in many parts of Madagascar. Such facilities, which would enable both saving and lending, could rapidly change the lives of millions of Malagasy through increased entrepreneurship and the ability to put away money for the future. We came across very few overweight Malagasy people on our trip into the country; our tour guide informed us that if a Malagasy was overweight, they were not classed has being obese but were classed as rich. I then joked with him, I see you are getting a bit of a pouch around the stomach, are you nearly rich?

Designating an area as a park does not mean local people will have their immediate needs satisfied. A park does not alleviate their hunger or satisfy their requirements for shelter and other necessities. Conservation in Madagascar must address the needs of local people, and efforts must focus on poverty alleviation and economic development as well as protecting wildlife and this fragile environment. Conservation cannot come at the expense of local people; local people must be made both partners and beneficiaries in conservation, and not enemies of it. In seeking a "solution" to the environmental problems of Madagascar—whether it be through agroforestry, extractive reserves, ecotourism, or another strategy—the ultimate fate of its ecosystems rests upon the hands of local people. These wildlands can be "saved" by restricting economic growth; it is necessary to realise parks and reserves will not persist, let alone be successful, unless local communities are persuaded that it is in their material interest to conserve them.

I hope the people and government of Madagascar with the help of others around the world can save this unique island from further destruction before it is too late.

Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.

I would love to visit the island again there is so much to see; a two-week visit was far too short a time.


Our Wildlife Quicklinks