MADA­GAS­CAR: THE AN­I­MAL KING­DOM

THE WILDLIFE OF MADA­GAS­CAR HAS TO BE SEEN TO BE BE­LIEVED.

Vacations & Travel - - Contents - BY DALE MOR­RIS

The wildlife of Mada­gas­car is some­thing to behold, es­pe­cially when seen through the lens of Dale R. Mor­ris.

The African coun­try of Mada­gas­car is, at 587,000 square kilo­me­tres, the world’s fourth largest is­land. Some­times re­ferred to as ‘the eighth con­ti­nent’ this ex­otic and trop­i­cal land­mass has been seg­re­gated from all oth­ers by the In­dian Ocean for more than 88 mil­lion years.

In all that time left alone, the an­i­mals there have evolved into unique en­demic species, un­like any oth­ers found any­where else on the planet. There are more than

100 species of lemur (a sort of proto-mon­key) liv­ing in the jun­gles, de­cid­u­ous dry forests and spikey wood­lands of Mada­gas­car, as well as more than 100 species of chameleon.

The birds here are unique, the in­sect species are found nowhere else, and the snakes and lizards are also all orig­i­nals. In other words, there’s nowhere else on Earth quite like this mag­i­cal and mys­ti­cal is­land.

De­spite this be­ing ‘of­fi­cially’ an African lo­ca­tion, Mada­gas­car doesn’t re­ally feel like it’s part of the great

Dark Con­ti­nent. The peo­ple of the in­te­rior orig­i­nally hail from some­where in Asia (most likely Malaysia, In­done­sia or Bor­neo) and ar­rived by boat as re­cently as 1500 years ago: a jour­ney of more than 7000 kilo­me­tres. They must have been ter­ri­bly lost when they first set foot on the trop­i­cal sandy beaches of this pre­vi­ously un­in­hab­ited par­adise.

Un­for­tu­nately, their ar­rival sounded the death knell for many of Mada­gas­car’s unique an­i­mals and plants. There have been un­count­able ex­tinc­tions, and to­day, de­for­esta­tion is at an all-time high.

There are plenty of wildlife re­serves and na­tional parks where wildlife is pro­tected and can still be en­coun­tered, but Mada­gas­car, due to a mush­room­ing hu­man pop­u­la­tion, is one of those des­ti­na­tions that you should travel to now rather than later. Who knows if the irreplaceable and en­dan­gered species of this beau­ti­ful is­land will still be there in the fu­ture? • * Dale Mor­ris uses Nikon D810 and D5 bod­ies and his kit bag con­tains a fish-eye lens, a 400mm f2.8, a 105 macro and a wide an­gle (16-35mm) lens. He of­ten uses a flash, es­pe­cially when us­ing a wide-an­gle lens and macro sub­jects.

Be­low, from top: The Av­enue of the Baob­abs in the Men­abe district is a pop­u­lar place with tourists. Here you will find around 25 of these gi­ant trees lin­ing the side of a dusty dirt road; There are many types of ex­otic look­ing lizards to be found, in­clud­ing this multi-coloured panther chameleon.

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