wildlife edition! madagascar: meet the locals

Madasgascar, a large (and possibly magical) island off the coast of southern Africa, is a very special place. It’s a home to things that don’t exist anywhere else. It’s a place like no other with some of the weirdest and wonderfullest wildlife in the whole wide world. I mean, check these out:

Let’s start small. Have you ever heard of a giraffe weevil? Probably not. Neither did I til about an hour prior to writing this. The male weevil grows a neck that is up to 2-3 times longer than those of the females and is primarily used for fighting (usually over the ladies. I know, right? Meanwhile, they’re too busy using their shorter necks to roll leaf-tube nests to notice anyway, probably. But I’m not a biologist.). The males mature up to 2.5 cm in length and, if their necks aren’t fetching enough, they flash some jazzy red wings too. Probably ’cause they look good.

Now, most people are familiar with lemurs…. But if you’re not, they kind of look like highly-caffienated monkeys from space. Or like “King Julien” (don’t pretend you don’t know… “I like to move it, move it” would ring a bell)….

(and, for the record, I kinda want to leap with these lemurs while on the island. I’ll tell you how that goes.)

The Ring-tailed lemur (above) is the most widely known, while others are simply too cool for school. For example, check out this guy:

That, my friend, is the (probably) lesser known Red-Ruffed Lemur howlin’ it up like a rockstar. Now here’s one of those super cute “space-monkey on coffee”-look-alikes…

The sad truth about the Blue-eyed (or Sclater) Lemur, above, is that there are thought to be less than one hundred left. Fortunately, Madagascar has national parks where these animals are safe, but so much of the island has suffered deforestation, its status is critical. Also, because some plant species have evolved with dependency on lemurs, the eco-system is highly jeapardized. Thankfully, more efforts are being done now to restore and protect the animals and their homes. But now, more than ever, we need to protect what’s left so we don’t lose it for good.

There was a research expedition I was so gung-ho to join except that the dates did not work out for my planned travel… and that was with a group of fossa trackers. Fossas, in case you don’t know, are the largest mammalian carnivores in Madagascar, and are, as you might have guessed, native exclusively to the island. They are definitely quite “cat-like” in appearance, but are most easily compared to the mongoose.

Sounds scary? Maybe. Until you look at a baby.

Or a close up of that face….

Well, as long as they’re not baring their teeth at you…

A trip to Madagascar is like a trip to another planet, and nothing drives that analogy better than the weirdest, creepiest and most amazing creature of them all… a creature I am so hopelessly smitten with that I will not rest until I see one: the aye-aye.

One picture alone cannot encompass all that is wonderful about the aye-aye, so check out these as well: http://www.arkive.org/aye-aye/daubentonia-madagascariensis/image-G113600.html (Unfortunately, I couldn’t find many photos at all under creative commons, so I’m giving you a link to some great photographs instead.)

Believed to bring bad luck to the villages, the aye aye was killed on sight for, regrettably, most of its cohabitation with humans. So, there’s those monkeys from space, then there’s this guy who looks sort of like a hybrid chinchilla-squirrel from the far-reaches of another galaxy, except that they’re an endanged species from this one.

Named after the sounds it makes, the aye-aye has an exceptionally long middle finger (perhaps the source of the superstition? flippin’ the bird and pissin’ people off? I kid, I  kid). With that finger, the aye-aye taps the trees in order to locate lunch as it can reach into the holes to draw out the insects. Pretty cool, huh? Better yet, the aye-aye is a primate. That’s right. He’s kind of like our second-cousin thrice removed. Except more awesome.

These are just some of the wonders of that enchanted island. Be sure to check out the links below if you’re curious to see some more pictures. Pretty soon I’ll be able to show you some of my own instead of having to hunt them down on the internet… (P.S. Thank you wonderful photographers. I credited you as best as I could.)

Jusqu’a prochaine fois!

Here are those other cool links worth checking out:

(Note: If this looks like deja vu, it’s likely because this was initially posted as a page. However, due to some navigational upgrades to the blogsite, I decided it would be easier to incorporate as a post.)

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