Here’s why the ‘8th continent’
The reason why in this little piece of the earth’s surface live so many endemic species of plants and animals lies in the history of the island. 165 million years ago the island was separated from the rest of the African continent, and later, 85 million years ago from India. Thus, this isolation led to the development of a unique flora and fauna, with 90% of its wildlife found only in Madagascar. Pretty impressive!
Due to impressive and unique flora and fauna, many refer to the island as the “eighth continent”. Lemurs, chameleons, birds, fossa (the strange creature that eats lemurs), baobabs, many species of orchids and palm trees are just some of the wonders that island hides.
Human impact on the island
Before the arrival of the first settlers almost the entire island was covered with forests. Forest that was home to 5% of all plant and animal species on Earth that can be found only and exclusively in Madagascar.
Humans (who else?) destroyed more than 90% of the original forest of the island so lives of many endemic species are in great danger of extinction. Lemurs larger than a gorilla or a bird of gigantic dimensions can be seen today only in encyclopedias and books. So sad. It is also very difficult to explain to the local people who use wood and charcoal for cooking the importance of preserving island’s forests.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is Mr. Coquerel’s Sifaka, the funniest & sweetest creature ever!
National parks & wildlife
National parks are a world unto itself. It is obvious that few tourists and many scientists leave some money there so they look very organized and ‘civilized’.
Why visit the national parks?
First of all because of the nature. If you are planning a trip to Madagascar best time to visit is October – November when many plant species, especially colorful orchids bloom and animals (read: lemurs) are the most active.
The island has more than 100 species of lemurs. But on a daily basis they discover new species. During my stay in Madagascar was discovered a new species of nocturnal lemur. Cool! But these puffy creatures haven’t impressed me at all. They were too far and too high without interest to visitors with cameras ‘directed’ towards them. Without good telephoto lens it’s hard to see them.
So chameleons compensated that. I’ve never been ‘reptile’ kind of person. I don’t like snakes or lizards. But with chameleons it was a love at first sight. They are simply amazing little guys! I call them DJ’s because of the way they move their legs slowly back and forth like a DJ mix music in the club. Yes, you may not know, but the island is full of small David Guetta-s.
Almost half of the world’s chameleon species live on Madagascar! Their eyes can move independently of each other, enabling them to look in two different directions at once. They have a full 360-degree view and can focus their eyes quickly and enlarge what they are looking at like a camera lens! Impressive! So they can see absolutely everything around them, without moving a single millimeter. Eh, if only I could have such eyes, my laziness would have a whole new dimension.
Did you know?
It’s a misconception that chameleons change colors to match their surroundings. A chameleon skin changes colors in response to its emotions, such as anger or fear, changes in light, temperature or humidity. And me? I don’t change skin colors… well, except when I’m angry. What about you?
The chameleons are sacred animals on the island. It’s prohibited to kill them on purpose. Except in one case, and that is when you see a chameleon on the roof of your house. Then you pull out the gun that almost every village has and little David Guetta stops the music. Why? If you don’t kill it is believed that someone of the family members who live in that house will die. Hmm… interesting!