Nature pictures from Madagascar

These images were taken by Mongabay founder Rhett A. Butler over the course of several trips to Madagascar between 1997 and 2019.

The images are organized into galleries, the most popular of which are presented below.

The bottom of this page includes recent conservation news from Madagascar.

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Madagascar nature news


Protected areas benefit nature & people, study says — with caveats (July 2, 2024)
- A new paper in the journal Current Biology that attempts to track how protected areas (PAs) fare on biodiversity protection and economic growth found that PAs “don’t have a negative impact on local economic growth.”
- However, experts say that the encouraging results must be interpreted with abundant caution because the study uses narrow definitions of conservation success and economic development.
- The top 10 countries that were most likely to report harmony between the two objectives included five African countries: Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Madagascar, Zambia and South Sudan.
- The performance of PAs in key biodiversity areas such as the Amazon and Southeast Asia was also lackluster, but this was in comparison with other areas, said Binbin Li, first author of the study. “It is not at the same level [as other regions], but it is not rare.”


Madagascar lemurs, tortoises seized in Thai bust reveal reach of wildlife trafficking (June 28, 2024)
- The recent seizure in Thailand of 48 lemurs and more than 1,200 critically endangered tortoises endemic to Madagascar underscores the global scale of wildlife trafficking networks that use Thailand as a transshipment hub.
- The operation was aided by intelligence from a joint transnational investigation between Thai law enforcement agencies and international antitrafficking organizations working to dismantle global wildlife trafficking networks spanning Asia, Africa and South America.
- Among the confiscated animals were ring-tailed lemurs, common brown lemurs, spider tortoises and radiated tortoises, all of which were suspected to be destined for illegal pet markets in Asia.
- While Madagascar authorities are keen to see the animals repatriated, experts caution that the country’s capacity to receive them are woefully lacking, and urge the government to step up law enforcement, combat systemic corruption and boost surveillance in Madagascar’s remote protected areas.


‘Mind-blowing’ new orchid species found in Madagascar forest canopy (March 22, 2024)
- Scientists from Madagascar, the U.S. and Europe have described a new orchid species from the forests of central Madagascar, which has a record-breaking long nectar spur relative to its small flower size.
- The orchid is pollinated by a species of hawkmoth with a very long tongue, similar to Darwin’s orchid, which was predicted to exist by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace in the 1800s.
- Habitat of the newly described orchid species is threatened deforestation and mining activities, especially from the Ambatovy nickel and cobalt mine nearby, though Ambatovy is funding conservation actions to protect the species.
- Madagascar’s unique biodiversity, including many species found nowhere else on Earth, is under serious threat from rapid deforestation driven by agriculture, fires and mining.


Madagascar takes key step toward improving transparency of its fisheries (March 7, 2024)
- Madagascar recently released its first fisheries transparency report, part of an effort to open up, democratize, and improve the sustainability of its fisheries sector.
- The report is a key step in a process defined by the Fisheries Transparency Initiative (FiTI), a Seychelles-based nonprofit.
- It contains important information on traditional, artisanal and industrial fisheries, a list of the laws and regulations governing the sector, tenure arrangements, and access agreements — including previously undisclosed information.
- It also assesses the country’s transparency according to the availability and accessibility of data from six thematic areas as outlined by the FiTI Standard.


Three new species of frogs found nestled in Madagascar’s pandan trees (February 1, 2024)
- Scientists have described three new frog species that dwell exclusively in the spiky leaves of pandan trees in Madagascar’s eastern rainforests.
- While the frogs are new to science, locals have observed them for generations, and they’ve been given names in Malagasy.
- The frogs have a unique life cycle completely restricted to the trees, meaning they entirely depend entirely on intact pandan trees.
- Pandan trees, from the genus Pandanus, are threatened by deforestation driven by mining, agriculture and development, while slashing, burning and deforestation threaten Madagascar’s extraordinary biodiversity in general.


Beyond the myths: Anthropologist Alison Richard on Madagascar’s environmental realities and future (January 3, 2024)
- Madagascar is celebrated for its extraordinary biodiversity, characterized by remarkably high rates of endemicism. However, Madagascar is also synonymous with loss, particularly the extinction of its largest animal species and the degradation of habitats.
- The conventional wisdom holds that the island was entirely forested before human settlement, with early settlers decimating most of these forests. Alison Richard, a distinguished anthropologist, has challenged this traditional narrative of Madagascar’s environmental history by leveraging a growing body of research that suggests a more nuanced reality.
- In “The Sloth Lemur’s Song,” Richard weaves a captivating story covering the island’s geological past to its current conservation challenges. Her work critically assesses the narratives of blame, stemming from colonial history, that have influenced perceptions of Madagascar’s environmental issues.
- In a recent interview with Mongabay, Richard discussed her research and conservation efforts in Madagascar and beyond.


Photos: Top species discoveries from 2023 (December 27, 2023)
- Scientists described a slew of new species this past year, including an electric blue tarantula, two pygmy squid, a silent frog, and some thumb-sized chameleons.
- Experts estimate less than 20% of Earth’s species have been documented by Western science.
- Although a species may be new to science, it may already be well known to local and Indigenous people and have a common name.
- Many new species of plants, fungi, and animals are assessed as Vulnerable or Critically Endangered with extinction as soon as they are found, and many species may go extinct before they are named, experts say.


Madagascar group aims to protect wildlife from stray cats & dogs (November 21, 2023)
- In the biodiverse forests of Madagascar, stray cats and dogs pose threats to wildlife by hunting and harassing wild animals or transmitting diseases to them.
- The Mad Dog Initiative, an American NGO, runs annual sterilization and rabies vaccination campaigns to reduce the strays’ impact.
- However, it will take more time to achieve measurable impacts on wildlife, the group’s leaders say, and raising awareness among villagers and overcoming “fadys,” or Malagasy taboos, remains a challenge.


Newly described gecko from Madagascar a master of disguise (September 14, 2023)
- Madagascar is a hotspot for gecko diversity, and the latest to appear on the tree of life is Uroplatus garamaso.
- U. garamaso, with a length of 8.3-13.9 cm (3.3-5.5 in), is one of the larger leaf-tailed lizards inhabiting the island, but is still a master at hiding in plain sight.
- The gecko’s known range is restricted to the forests in the north of the island: Montagne des Français, Montagne d’Ambre, and Ankarana in the Diana region.


Can land titles save Madagascar’s embattled biodiversity and people? (August 14, 2023)
- Through its Titre Vert or Green Title initiative, the Malagasy government is opening up a path to land ownership for its most vulnerable citizens in the hopes it will help tackle hunger, internal migration, and forest loss.
- The state is using the initiative to lean on potential migrants to remain in the country’s deep south, where five years of failed rains have left 2 million people hungry, instead of migrating north, where they are often blamed for social tensions and for destroying forests.
- This March, the Malagasy government started work on a Titre Vert enclave in the Menabe region, a popular destination for migrants from the drought-hit south, to dissuade them from clearing unique dry forests to grow crops.
- Critics say the government is holding people back in a rain-starved region without providing enough support; in Menabe, backers of the project hope to provide ample assistance to get migrants out of the forests and onto their feet.


10 nature attractions in Madagascar:

  • Masoala National Park: Masoala National Park is a large national park located on the Masoala Peninsula in northeastern Madagascar. It is home to a variety of ecosystems, including rainforests, mangroves, and coral reefs. It is also home to a variety of wildlife, including lemurs, chameleons, and birds.
  • Isalo National Park: Isalo National Park is a protected area in southwestern Madagascar. It is home to a variety of landscapes, including sandstone formations, gorges, and waterfalls. It is also home to a variety of wildlife, including lemurs and chameleons.
  • Berenty Private Reserve: The Berenty Private Reserve is a protected area in southern Madagascar. It is home to a variety of wildlife, including lemurs and birds.
  • Andasibe-Mantadia National Park: Andasibe-Mantadia National Park is a protected area in eastern Madagascar. It is home to a variety of ecosystems, including rainforests, grasslands, and wetlands. It is also home to a variety of wildlife, including lemurs and birds.
  • Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park: Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park is a protected area in western Madagascar. It is known for its unique karst formations, called tsingy, which are formed from ancient coral reefs. It is also home to a variety of wildlife, including lemurs and chameleons.
  • Ankarana National Park: Ankarana National Park is a protected area in northern Madagascar. It is home to a variety of ecosystems, including rainforests, caves, and savannas. It is also home to a variety of wildlife, including lemurs and chameleons.
  • Analamazaotra Special Reserve: The Analamazaotra Special Reserve is a protected area in eastern Madagascar. It is home to a variety of wildlife, including lemurs and chameleons.
  • Zombitse-Vohibasia National Park: Zombitse-Vohibasia National Park is a protected area in western Madagascar. It is home to a variety of ecosystems, including rainforests, grasslands, and wetlands. It is also home to a variety of wildlife, including lemurs and chameleons.
  • Marojejy National Park: Marojejy National Park is a protected area in northeastern Madagascar. It is home to a variety of ecosystems, including rainforests, wetlands, and grasslands. It is also home to a variety of wildlife, including lemurs and chameleons.
  • Montagne d'Ambre National Park: Montagne d'Ambre National Park is a protected area in northern Madagascar. It is home to a variety of ecosystems, including rainforests, wetlands, and grasslands. It is also home to a variety of wildlife, including lemurs and chameleons.

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