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5 Best Species to See in Madagascar

Madagascar boasts one of the highest biodiversity rates on the planet and is home to roughly 150,000 endemic species! It would be near impossible to spot all of those species during a short trip to Madagascar, so we’ve done the hard work for you and narrowed down five species that we think you should definitely keep your eyes out for while you’re visiting the island!


Flickr | amareta kellyAye-Ayes are one of the many species that are endemic to Madagascar and while they may not look like primates, they are closely related to chimpanzees, apes AND humans! Some locals class the Aye-Aye as an omen of bad luck but they are such a unique looking species that we still think they are worth looking out for while you’re visiting Madagascar! With their large eyes, huge ears and elongated fingers they are definitely a far cry from the usual primate appearance and can be a little bit shocking to the eye, but this species is still just as fascinating as its other Madagascar counterparts. The Aye-Aye is essentially the primate equivalent to the woodpecker but unfortunately their numbers are far from thriving and they are now facing the very real threat of extinction.

Brookesia Chameleon

Flickr | Sam WhitfieldThese little guys might be a bit difficult to spot as they claim the spotlight for being the smallest chameleon in the world as well as one of the smallest reptiles but if you can remember to keep your eyes peeled for them, they are worth the effort! The Brookesia are a genus of chameleons that are all endemic to Madagascar and they range from small, to very small in size with one species reaching a maximum length of one inch! Collectively these chameleons are known as leaf chameleons as they are generally found within the leaf litter of the rainforests. If you want to stand a chance of spotting one of these tiny critters, your best to keep a look out at night as this is when they settle onto the leaves of small shrubs.

Humpback Whales

Flickr | Michael SaleFrom June to the end of September, the Eastern shore of Madagascar is the place to be as it offers one of the most incredible natural spectacles in the world. Each year during this time more than 7000 humpback whales make their annual migration to the sheltered waters around the island where they then nurse their young until the latter part of the year. Humpback Whales are famous across the world for their sequences of songs that can travel great distances through the water. These whales, like others, regularly breach the water and while scientists aren’t sure whether this behaviour has a purpose to it or if it is just done for fun, I’m sure you’ll agree that it is a sight very worth seeing!


Flickr | Cloudtail the Snow LeopardThe Fossa is another endemic species to Madagascar and as the largest carnivore on the African island it has been known to feed on anything from lemurs to mice. With claws like a cat, a long tail like a monkey and ears like a weasel it is understandable that people find these animals confusing to identify on the first glance but despite it sharing similarities in its appearance with these animals, the Fossa is actually closely related to the mongoose and civet. The Fossa is listed as a vulnerable species and due to their elusive nature, very little is actually known about this species. What we do know is that the Fossa is the most widely distributed of the Malagasy carnivores and it can be found in both the Western and Eastern forests of Madagascar so hopefully you might spot one on your travels!

Ring-Tailed Lemur

Flickr | ValerieThe animated Dreamworks film Madagascar made the ring-tailed lemur famous with its crazy character King Julien but seeing them in person is a whole other experience that you cannot miss out on if you visit the island! Ring-tailed lemurs are identifiable, and unmistakable, due to their long, black and white striped tail. These lemurs use their hands and feet to move through the trees but interestingly, unlike many other primates, they cannot grip using their tails. Ring-tailed lemurs are incredibly social and live in groups called troops which are typically made up of around 17 lemurs and are led by a dominant female, so where you see one of these iconic creatures, you’re likely to see many more!

You can see all these species and more on our Madagascar Projects!

Find out what our volunteers are up to in Madagascar right now!

By Shannon Clark - Online Journalism Intern

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