Monday, 13 February 2012

Madagascan Wildlife

The island of Madagascar was the subject of a fascinating illustrated talk recently given by Phred Newbury to the Malvern local group. 

Madagascar is two and a half times the size of the British Isles and is the fourth largest island in the world.  It has been inhabited for only 2000 years by people believed to be of Indonesian descent. The island encompasses rainforests in the east and deciduous dry forests in the west separated by a high plateau. Looking at a map, it is clear that Madagascar would fit to the east coast of Africa like a jigsaw piece and it is thought that it broke away from Africa some 160 million years ago. As in Australia, this has led to the evolution of different animals and birds and many of the island’s species are found only in Madagascar. A good example is the Fossa, a large mammalian, nocturnal carnivore. New species continue to be discovered there.

The lemur is unique to Madagascar, where there are around 90 species. In Africa, lemurs were predated by monkeys and apes - they survived in Madagascar where there are no monkeys or apes. Even now they are hunted for food by humans despite being an endangered species.

Phred travelled over much of the island but her main objective was to visit the small, undeveloped island of Nosy Mangabe in the far north east of Madagascar in the hope of seeing Aye Aye Lemurs which are relatively safe there. Stephen Fry and Mark Cardwadine had failed to find these rare primates in the television programme Last Chance to See; Phred was very fortunate to see one of these amazing creatures only a short distance from her tent.

Phred supports Durrell, a wildlife conservation trust which was established by Gerald Durrell the writer who founded Jersey zoo. The trust’s mission is to save species from extinction and much of its work is carried out in Madagascar where it attempts to raise awareness of the importance of conservation amongst local people. She showed many excellent Durrell photographs of animals, birds, lizards, plants and insects which are endemic to Madagascar.

Our next indoor meeting will be held on Thursday 1st March when Rachel Salisbury will give an illustrated talk entitled The Conservation Garden. The meeting starts at 7.30 pm at the Chase Academy Sixth Form Annexe, Geraldine Close, Barnards Green WR14 3PF and we'd love to see you there.

Derek, Malvern local group

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