Home Madagascar Treasures of Madagascar | The Daily Star

Treasures of Madagascar | The Daily Star


Vanga de Chabert, Andasibe, Madagascar. Photo: Ihtisham Kabir


Vanga de Chabert, Andasibe, Madagascar. Photo: Ihtisham Kabir

In Madagascar, nine out of ten species of flora and fauna are endemic. That is to say, they are found in Madagascar and nowhere else. Looking through photographs from a trip in 2017, I vividly remember this fact.

The fourth largest island in the world, Madagascar developed several ecosystems and many species after separating from Africa around 160 million years ago. It would take years for a naturalist photographer to do justice to the richness of its flora and fauna.

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A chain of mountains extending from north to south in its middle divides Madagascar into several climatic zones: humid in the east, dry in the west and even drier in the south. Each area offers its own particular biodiversity.

We visited the ecosystems of the east and the south: the Andasibe rainforest and the thorn forest in the deserts of the south. Driving several hours from the capital Antananarivo, we reached Andasibe at nightfall. The magic started at breakfast the next morning. From the restaurant terrace, we saw a Chabert’s Vanga – a black and white bird with blue eye rings – leaping up a tree.

When I see a new bird in a new country, I try to put it in context. The bird family has members in other countries and I can compare with similar species that I have seen elsewhere. For example, when I saw a Purplish Trogon in Brazil, I immediately noticed that its profile and pose were similar to the Red-headed Forest Trogon of Bangladesh, so the new bird was not completely alien.

This is not the case with this vanga! The whole vanga family is only seen in Madagascar, so this bird was foreign to me. Other birds that we later found were just as strange – Asities, Couas, Ground-rollers and Fodys among them.

In addition to the unusual birds, there were also the “almost but not quite” birds.

For example, in the south we saw the Doel – Oriental Magpie Robin. But something was wrong: he was much smaller than our national bird. It turned out to be a separate species called Madagascar Magpie Robin. Our Kani Boga (Indian Pond Heron) is not found here but the Madagascan Pond Heron with the bright blue beak is rare and sought after by ornithologists. And the Kestrel, a small falcon seen in winter, has a version of Madagascar. While the former is greyish with orange-brown wings, the latter is more reddish with purple and orange undertones on its wings.

Over a hundred species of gentle and friendly lemurs live on this island. The eighty species of snakes here are not threatening: I was able to approach a resting boa a few meters away. There are many colorful chameleons and lizards. The only carnivore in Madagascar is the fossa, about the size of a large dog. He eats lemurs.

The plant life here is no less exciting. Madagascar grows world vanilla, the pod of an orchid that must be pollinated by hand. Of the eight species of baobabs in the world, six are endemic to Madagascar. These bottle-shaped trees are striking. They store water in desert areas; their fruit is also edible. In addition to exotic plants, there were also familiarities such as Krishnachura and Panthopadop which are native to Madagascar.

I would love to return to Madagascar in the future. However, this may take time as Madagascar today struggles with famine conditions caused by climate change and locusts. We wish them a speedy recovery.

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