The Real Animals of Madagascar

Madagascar—an island off the coast of Africa—has some of the world's most interesting animals. About 75 percent of the species found in Madagascar live nowhere else on the planet. Below are some of the better known animals in Madagascar.

Lemurs | Other mammals | Birds | Reptiles | Frogs | Insects

> Aye-aye

Take the ears of a bat and the teeth of a rat, add a long bony middle finger and huge eyes and you have yourself the aye-aye. This nocturnal lemur lives in the rainforests of Madagascar and feeds on insect larvae that it finds by tapping on tree bark with its stick-like middle finger. As it taps, the aye-aye listens for movement indicative of insects and gnaws away at the wood when it hears something appetizing.

Today the aye-aye is highly threatened by habitat loss (rainforest destruction) and hunting. In some areas, local people believe the aye-aye brings bad luck and will kill the animal whenever they encounter it. MORE
Bamboo lemur

Bamboo lemurs feed on bamboo and are generally found in the rainforests and cloud forests of Madagascar (two species are found outside these areas). MORE
Black lemur

The black lemur lives in the tropical forests of northern Madagascar. Black lemurs are notable for the differences between the sexes. Males are black while females have reddish-brown fur with a black and white face. Black lemurs feed on fruit, flowers, and young leaves.
Dwarf lemur

Dwarf lemurs are small nocturnal lemurs that feed on fruit, flowers, young leaves and insects. They are found throughout Madagascar.

The indri is the largest living lemur. Black and white in color, the indri is famous for its eerie wail that sounds a bit like the song of a humpback whale. The indri feeds on fruit and leaves in the canopy of the rainforests of eastern Madagascar. Today the indri is endangered due to habitat loss. MORE | Hear the indri's song
Lepilemur, Sportive or Weasel lemur

Lepilemurs are nocturnal lemurs that are easily spotted during daylight hours as they rest in tree hollows. Lepilemurs, which are neither weasel-like nor sportive, feed on leaves and are quite vocal at night.

In 2005 the discovery of two new species of Lepilemur was announced. MORE
Mouse lemur

Mouse lemurs are tiny primates found widely in Madagascar. Nocturnal and feeding on insects, small vertebrates, fruit, and flowers, mouse lemurs are known for their chirping vocalizations and frenetic activity. The pygmy mouse lemur (Microcebus myoxinus) may be the world's smallest primate. MORE
Red-fronted brown lemur

The red-fronted brown lemur is widely distributed in the dry deciduous forests of western Madagascar, where it feeds on flowers, leaves, seed pods, fruit, insects, and bark. MORE
Red-ruffed lemur

The red-ruffed lemur is found in the rainforests of the Masoala peninsula in northeastern Madagascar. Red-ruffed lemurs live in groups and practice a form of communal parenting. Unlike most other lemurs, their young are not carried by females but left in a nest in the canopy while adults forage. MORE
Ring-tailed lemur

The ring-tailed lemur is the best known of lemurs. Ringtails live in the dry forests of southern and western Madagascar where they feed on fruit, flowers, leaves, and bark. Ring-tailed lemurs are the most terrestrial of living lemur species and are found in female-dominated groups consisting of three to 20 animals. MORE | See ring-tailed lemurs in action
Verreaux's sifaka

Sifakas are relatively large lemurs found throughout Madagascar. Verreaux's sifaka lives in the dry forests of western and southern Madagascar, where it feeds on leaves, fruit, and flowers. Sifakas are quite vocal with a variety of calls.

Sifakas are sometimes known as "dancing lemurs" for their mode of locomotion when they cross open ground: sifakas do not move about on all fours—instead they sashay on their hind legs while holding their arms aloft MORE | See the "sifaka dance"
Black-and-white ruffed lemur

The black-and-white ruffed lemur lives in the eastern rainforests of Madagascar including the island of Nosy Mangabe. Like the closely related red ruffed lemur of the Masoala peninsula, black-and-white ruffed lemurs are highly territorial and practice communal care for infants, which are kept in nests rather than being carried on the backs or stomachs of their mothers.

Black-and-white ruffed lemurs are widely hunted over their range. They also suffer from habitat loss. MORE
Flying fox

Flying foxes are bats that feed on fruit.

The fossa is a carnivore that is related to a mongoose and looks like a cross between a puma and a dog. Fossas are nocturnal creatures that hunt almost any animal including insects, reptiles, rodents and lemurs. They also prey on chickens in and around Malagasy villages and are hunted by local people as vermin.

Fossa are active both in trees and on the ground and are excellent climbers using their long tails for balance and retractable claws for climbing straight up and down tree trunks. MORE

The Fanaloka is a carnivore found in the rainforests of eastern Madagascar. MORE
Narrow-striped mongoose

The narrow-striped mongoose is a small carnivore found in western Madagascar. MORE

Tenrecs are unusual insectivores that have radiated into ecological niches filled in other lands by hedgehogs, mice, shrews, opossums, and even otters. While a few species of tenrec are found in central Africa, they are most diverse in Madagascar, which has around 30 species. MORE
Blue coua

Madagascar has "only" 258 bird species, although 115 of these are endemic (with 36 endemic genera), Madagascar has more unique genera than any other African country. MORE
Brookesia chameleon

Brookesia chameleons are some of the world's smallest reptiles—one species reaches a maximum length of just over an inch (30 mm). Also known as stumped-tailed or leaf chameleons, these diminutive creatures are found in the leaf litter of rainforests and dry deciduous forests in much of Madagascar.

Brookesia feed on small insects and rely on their cyptic coloration to evade predators. When disturbed, these chameleons will play dead in an effort to resemble a fallen leaf. MORE

Madagascar is home to about half the world's 150 or so species of chameleons, which are small to mid-size reptiles that are famous for their ability to dramatically change colors. Contrary to popular belief, a chameleon typically does not change colors to match its surroundings. Instead color is usually used to convey emotions, defend territories, and communicate with mates. MORE
Day gecko

Unlike most geckos, which are nocturnal, Phelsuma day geckos are diurnal lizards. Day geckos are found in Madagascar and nearby islands including the Comoros, Andamans, and Seychelles. They are often brightly colored and use body positioning and movement for territorial displays.

Day geckos feed mostly on insects, but also occasionally on fruit and flower nectar. MORE
Uroplatus geckos

Leaf-tailed or Uroplatus geckos rely on cryptic coloration as they sleep with their heads downward, flattened against tree trunks and adjusting their body coloration to their surroundings. Inactive during the day, Uroplatus geckos only move when disturbed. They respond to prodding with an impressive display of a brightly colored gaping mouth and an erect tail. At night they hunt insects. MORE
Nile crocodile

Crocodilus niloticus, the Nile crocodile, is found in freshwater habitats in Madagascar. This species was once widely abundant and greatly feared in the country but years of hunting for its skins has made it a threatened species.

Crocodiles are found in the caves of Ankarana special reserve. National Geographic led an expedition to learn about this unique behavior.
Spear-nosed snake

Madagascar is home to more than 80 species of snakes, none of which are overtly dangerous to humans. The island has no adders, cobras, mambas, pythons, or vipers—only boas and colubrids. MORE
Mantella frog

Madagascar is thought to have more than 300 species of frogs, 99 percent of which are endemic. Frogs are the only amphibians found in Madagascar—there are no toads, salamanders, or newts.

Mantella are among the most popular of Malagasy frogs in the pet trade. These strikingly beautiful frogs fill a similar ecological niche to the poison dart frogs of South America in that both use bright colors to advertise their toxic skin secretions to predators. MORE
Tomato frog

The Tomato frog (Dyscophus antongili) can release a sticky glue-like secretion that protects it against colubrid snakes, cats, and dogs. The secreted substance can produce an allergic reaction in humans as well.
Comet Moth

The Comet Moth (also known as the Madagascan Moon Moth) is known for its huge tail—up to 8 inches (20cm) in length.
Pill Millipede

Millipedes are common in the forests of Madagascar. These elongated arthropods have two pairs of legs for each one of their 20 to 100 or more body segments. They are herbivorous, eating decaying leaves and other dead plant matter.

Pill millipedes superficially resemble pill bugs for their ability to roll into a tight ball when confronted with danger.
Flatid Leaf Bugs

The adult form of flatid leaf bugs. When young (in their "nymph" form), these insects resemble lace decorations.

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