One of the joys of SpiceRoads’ Madagascar adventure is catching sight of the myriad species unique to the island. And “myriad” is an understatement.
According to the World Wildlife Fund’s description of Madagascar, “approximately 95 percent of Madagascar’s reptiles, 89 percent of its plant life, and 92 percent of its mammals exist nowhere else on Earth.” A good web search will unearth variations of those statistics, but all are just as impressive.
The poster child – okay, poster primate – for the wildlife of this island nation has long been the lemur. Derived from the Latin “lemures”, meaning “spirit” or “ghost”, there are over 100 species, many only recently discovered, leaving speculation that there are still more to be discovered. Who knows, you might take a picture of one!
They range from the largest Indri lemurs, which can reach 9 kgs and is known for their distinctive calls, to the smallest Berthe’s mouse lemur, maxing out at 10 cm in length.
King Julien of the movie “Madagascar” has made the ring-tail lemur a wanted household pet worldwide, but they are more likely found in the Anja Reserve, which so happens to be on the itinerary!
Unfortunately, these gentle creatures are verging on extinction (most species are on the endangered species list). One of the cultural sensitivities in Madagascar is the fady, or taboos. There are many, but one is against the eating of lemurs. Depending on your source, it either because a long time ago, a lemur saved a boy’s life or because lemurs and humans share ancestries.
But because of political and economic upheavals, lemurs and other endangered animals are poached and hunted for meat. It is hoped that the continued interest in seeing lemurs alive and in their natural habitat will make people think twice, and these wonderful creatures will endure.
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