Text and pictures © 2008-2013 Guillaume Dargaud
Last updated on 2012/12/10
"Cute and cuddly, boys. Cute and cuddly !" — Skipper the penguin in the movie Madagascar.
Left: Soaking crocodile, a non-native specie introduced recently in Madagascar.
On this page I show only a few of the animals we saw in Madagascar. I'm no specialist, so I'll keep the comments to a minimum, feel free to write me if you want to contribute.
Right: Crocodile waiting in the water.
One does not expect mean animals such as crocodiles in Madagascar, but rather cute and cuddly things like lemurs. The one things you must be aware of before heading out there is that the meanest of all are the malaria and chikungunya carrying mosquitoes. Just to put the fear of god into you, hear that they have a species called tiger mosquito ! It goes BzzzzZZZZrrRROARG! Like someone said: "Mosquitoes are the proof god does not exist". OK, I'm showing pics of crocodiles while talking about mosquitoes just to drive the point home: don't forget your malaria medication.
Right: A tiny microcebe lemur.
Left: A sifaka lemur.
OK, now we get to the part about the cute and cuddly creatures. Or do we ? We saw lemurs in many different places, some of them partly domesticated and hanging around campgrounds. While we were at Camp Tsarasoa there was a Catta (ring-tailed lemur) continuously hanging around the camp and interfering with us. His preferred activity was to wipe his butt on all our stuff (like drying towels, climbing shoes tied to the pack, the chair that you'd just used, etc), so that got old pretty fast.
Right: A brown lemur, one of the many species of lemur present in Madagascar.
Left: A sifaka lemur eating some fruit.
He was also a bit aggressive and the camp team told us to use a stick to chase him away. One evening as I got back to the tent, it was sitting right in front of the entrance and my stick was on the side of the tent. As I extended my arm to pick up the stick, it understood my intent and in what may be qualified as legitimate defense (or rather anticipated attack), it jumped on my arm and bite me deeply on the elbow. Welcome to the world of rabies shots...
Right: A sifaka lemur.
Left: A pair of microcebes in their cage. Those tiny lemurs can fit in the palm of your hand.
As we climb on the big walls of the Tsaranoro, the little remnant of native forest that wasn't exterminated by continuous agricultural fires is alive with lemur calls. To me they sound like roosters on speed and I can't help but smile when I hear some of the craziest.
Right: A ring-tailed lemur checking out my pack. We immediately noticed its nasty habit of wiping its butt on everything handy. And then it bit me.
Left: Brown lemur eating a banana.
Right: A leaf gecko stretched along a plant.
Left: The feet and belly of a gecko as seen through a glass window. Those critters are extremely annoying when you are a climber struggling up a wall and they run past you effortlessly.
Right: A chameleon walking on tree leaves, camouflage in action.
Left: Chameleon walking on a bush.
Left: A tiny and bright green gecko. Those critters are everywhere. They are on the trees when you walk around a forest. They are on the bedroom windows waiting to catch trapped flies. They are on the bathroom tiles looking at you taking a shower !
Right: A chameleon on a tree branch.
Right: Yet another Chameleon.
Left: A big lizard (sorry I'm not more specific, write me if you can give me more detail on those species). It's not Godzilla, but still impressive.
Right: Playing footsy with a hermit crab.
Left: Jenny with a hermit crab caught in her hair.
While we were on the island of Nosy Hara, almost every night the ground was taken over by hermit crabs in search of food, some of them quite large. They would wander between our feet as we ate, so we would play with them for a few minutes and let them go. The tradition on the islands is that they hold the spirit of the departed, so it's fady ('taboo') to harm them.
Right: The hermit crabs come out most nights and eat whatever they can find on the island. They don't go in the water but eat roots, bulbs, dead animals carried by the tides or whatever they can catch. I even saw 6 of them holding a much larger crab by one claw while using the other pincer to tear pieces off of it and eat them.
There are numerous other animals visible on the archipelago: paradise birds, whales (we saw some in the distance), dolphins, sea turtles whose young hatch right on the beach at the right time of year, sharks if you ignore the advice of not taking a swim at dusk or dawn...
Left: During our hike up the hill above Amdrambovato, Jeannot, our guide, caught a crayfish in the waters of the waterfall...
Right: ...So I was thinking, great, we have dinner...
Left: ...But then he put it back gently in the river, saying that since we are in a national park, there's no fishing allowed. Never mind, the broiled chicken dinner was excellent.
Right: Still an arthropod, but less eatable than the crayfish, here's a real-big Golden Orb Spider of the Nephila genus which our guide assures us only eats mosquitoes. I almost feel sorry for the mosquitoes. Yeah, right. The silk from this spider can actually be used to weave clothing.
Left: Video of the sensitive plant Mimosa Pudica, whose leaves close up in a few seconds when touched.
Left: An egg from the extinct Aepyornis 'elephant-bird', much larger than the ostrich egg next to it.
Right: An endangered fossa, the largest native predator of the Madagascar. Similar to a small leopard, it's indeed closer to a mongoose.
Left: The emblematic animal of Madagascar is not the lemur but the zebu, used for everything: pack animal, excellent steak, wealth evaluator ('The king of the village is very rich, he has 12 zebus'), wedding gift...
Right: An owl trying to ignore us and continue its night.
And most of those can be eaten ! Nowadays many of the emblematic animals of Madagascar are endangered and thus protected, even by the villagers who understand that their fauna is one of their greatest potential wealth. In restaurants you can find tang (a local porcupine, very strong gamey taste), bats (at the right time of year), warthog and other strange delicacies but fortunately no lemur !
Left: Ducklings taking a bath in their food bowl back in the village.
While waiting for the taxi-brousse at 7am in Fianarantsoa, I walk around the station to see what the various stalls have to offer. One of them have several plates containing impossible to identify artifacts, but one of them catches my attention: toasted grasshoppers. I get a bag for us and the 2 others 'vazas' but I'm the only one willing to try them: after removing the hind legs I eat the whole thing, and I'm surprised at how good it is: like a salty crunchy shrimp.