Title graphic Madagascar webpage
Indri
Ring-tailed lemurs
Verreaux's sifakas
Diademed sifakas
Milne-Edwards's sifakas
Red-fronted brown lemurs
Common brown lemurs
Zombitse sportive lemurs
Brown mouse lemur
Greater dwarf lemur
Merrem's Madagascar swift
Oustalet's chameleons
Lined day geckos
Unashamedly inspired by David Attenborough's Madagascar, I visited the island in October 2013 to see its amazing lemurs and other unique wildlife. None of the native terrestrial mammal species (currently 148 of them) are found anywhere else in the world, and the latest research suggests that the four groups present on the island (lemurs, tenrecs, rodents and carnivores) have each diversified from a single common ancestor.
In the case of the lemurs, it's thought that the ancestral species arrived in Madagascar between 47 and 54 million years ago, and evolved into a wide range of forms to exploit all the niches occupied by other groups such as monkeys and squirrels elsewhere in the world. New lemur species are still being discovered but when I visited the official number was 86, ranging from tiny mouse lemurs (weighing as little as 30g) to the indri (c9.5kg). We humans have of course extirpated several (possibly as many as 17) species of larger lemurs since we arrived in Madagascar, including the giant sloth lemur which weighed up to 200kg.

Madagascar's lemurs are amazing and unique. Unfortunately when I visited there was lots of evidence that the island's forests and other natural habitats are still being exploited unsustainably, and both corruption and poverty were rife. I can only hope that the Malagasy government and people can rise to the huge challenge of protecting their wildlife before any more species go extinct.  
Photography in some of the darker forests was difficult, but here are a few pictures of 10 of the 15 lemur species that I saw on my trip, as well as a few reptiles.
Indri
The big, teddy bear-like indris were my favourite lemurs, and their eerie calls were definitely the 'soundtrack to Madagascar' for me.

We saw them at Analamazaotra (Perinet) Special Reserve, which was established to protect Madagascar's fast-diminishing population of indris after it was discovered that the species cannot be kept in captivity - captive indris never breed and every individual except one died within 12 months, so protecting this Endangered lemur in its natural habitat is essential to the species' survival.

The indri families we saw
at Analamazaotra were extremely vocal but not keen to come too close to the tourists on the ground, so these photos are not the best. Taken looking up almost vertically into the dark canopy, they don't really show the indri's beautiful green eyes.
Indri
Indri Indri

Ring-tailed lemurs
This is one of the best-known lemur species, spends a lot of time on the ground and is usually quite relaxed around people. This group at Anja Community Reserve was particularly habituated, and we got great views including of mothers with their babies. These are born in September and were only a few weeks old when we visited.
Ring-tailed lemur mother & baby Ring-tailed lemur mother & baby
Ring-tailed lemur mother & baby Ring-tailed lemur mother & baby
Ring-tailed lemur mother & baby Ring-tailed lemur
Ring-tailed lemur Ring-tailed lemur
Ring-tailed lemur Ring-tailed lemur
Leaping ring-tailed lemur with baby
Verreaux's sifakas
This is the species which is sometimes seen 'dancing' along on the ground with a sideways skipping motion and its 'arms' held high, but the only individuals we saw on the ground were a pile of rowdy juveniles (see right) more interested in duffing each other up than in putting on a show for us.

The rest of this group, in Zombitse National Park, were up in the trees - foraging, bouncing around or sunbathing, apart from one individual which had perhaps done too much bouncing around and was sick on me from a great height.

The Verreaux's sifakas had babies too, but they were older than those of the ring-tails, having been born in July and August.
Verreaux's sifakas play fighting
Verreaux's sifaka Verreaux's sifakas
This individual doesn't have three arms by the way - there's another lemur immediately behind it hanging onto the same branch!
Verreaux's sifaka Verreaux's sifaka
Verreaux's sifaka mother & baby Verreaux's sifaka mother & baby

Diademed sifakas
Like the indri, this species (also
seen at Analamazaotra Special Reserve) is classified as Endangered, but the diademed sifakas were much more relaxed around the tourists and in fact seemed quite curious about us. The terrain was steeply sloped, which had the effect of putting us on a level with the lemurs, and as they bounced around from tree to tree they whizzed past close to our heads! I didn't see any babies in this group, but diademed sifakas do give birth relatively early in the year (June).
Diademed sifaka Diademed sifaka
Diademed sifaka Diademed sifaka

Milne-Edwards's sifakas
Yet another Endangered species, this time in Ranomafana National Park. Like the diademed sifakas, they were used to people and quite curious, but their hyperactivity and piebald colouration combined with the darkness of the forest made them difficult to photograph, so only a couple of decent photos here in in spite of getting very close.
Milne-Edwards's sifaka Milne-Edwards's sifaka

Red-fronted brown lemurs
We saw these lemurs in both
Ranomafana National Park and Isalo National Park. They are spend a lot of time on the ground and are extremely habituated, to the point of being a nuisance in Isalo but only because idiotic tourists insist on feeding them. I wandered away from the picnic tables to see the lemurs behaving more naturally in the forest, and got good close views of a very relaxed family which included a small baby (this species gives birth in September and early October). The baby was quite active, and in the only clear photo I managed to get it was sticking its tongue out - how rude!
Red-fronted brown lemur Red-fronted brown lemur
Red-fronted brown lemur Red-fronted brown lemur mother & baby
Red-fronted brown lemur Red-fronted brown lemur

Common brown lemurs
Despite their name, 'common' brown lemurs are still classified as Near Threatened with extinction, and although we did see them in Mantadia National Park, in 
Analamazaotra Special Reserve and even once by the roadside as we travelled from one park to another, nowhere did they seem that numerous. They also appeared to be relatively wary of people. This species has its babies quite late in the year, in September and October, and this little one in Analamazaotra looked so unsteady and uncoordinated that I guessed it had only just been born and that the mother was resting high in the canopy away from the rest of her group and the tourists.
Common brown lemur mother & baby Common brown lemur mother & baby

Zombitse sportive lemurs
So little is known about the conservation status of this species that it cannot be classified as Endangered or whatever, only as 'Data Deficient'. As you can guess from the size of its eyes, the 
Zombitse sportive lemur (also known is Hubbard's sportive lemur) is supposed to be nocturnal, but several individuals were out in the bright sunshine as we walked around Zombitse National Park. The animal in the last three pictures below appears to be one of the most photographed lemurs in the world - images of it on its characteristic tree are all over the Internet, and it was very photogenic with its fat furry body and little fangs.
Zombitse sportive lemur Zombitse sportive lemur
Zombitse sportive lemur Zombitse sportive lemur

Brown mouse lemur
We did a few night walks and spotted several
species of nocturnal mouse lemurs and dwarf lemurs. This is a brown mouse lemur which was attracted to some banana paste 'bait' on a tree in Ranomafana National Park, and we also a Goodman's mouse lemur in Mantadia National Park but it was just too dark for photos. Both species are tiny, weighing around 45g.
Brown mouse lemur Brown mouse lemur

Greater dwarf lemur
This lemur was also attracted to the 
banana 'bait' in Ranomafana.
Greater dwarf lemur
Greater dwarf lemur

Reptiles
We were disappointed not to see more of Madagascar's famous chameleon species, but perhaps we were too busy looking at the lemurs to spot them!

Merrem's Madagascar swift
This striking reptile seen in Isalo National Park is known locally as the spiny-tailed lizard but on my return home I couldn't find any such species on the island. Having rooted around the Internet I decided that it was a 
Merrem's Madagascar swift. This threw me initially because I thought swifts were birds, but it turns out that there are six reptilian swift species on the island, I assume named for their speed of movement. However this one was basking on a rock in the sunshine so not very swift at all.
Merrem's Madagascar swift
Merrem's Madagascar swift Merrem's Madagascar swift

Oustalet's chameleons
This species is also known as the
Madagascar giant chameleon and is found throughout the country. It is apparently the world's longest chameleon, which is perhaps why we spotted so many!
Oustalet's chameleon Oustalet's chameleon
Oustalet's chameleon Oustalet's chameleon
Oustalet's chameleon
Lined day geckos
There are lots of species of day geckos but I think these are lined day geckos and they were quite common, especially around buildings.
Gecko no. 5 in the first photo was on a drainpipe, and the animal in the second photo was basking on a corrugated roof.
Lined day gecko Lined day gecko

Website created by Gill Sinclair www.gillsinclair.net
Facts and figures from Garbutt, N. (2013) Mammals of Madagascar: A Complete Guide, London: Bloomsbury
All images on this page © Gill Sinclair 2013.
The images on these pages must not be copied or saved without the
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Last updated 22 April 2014