Frogs in Madagascar I Encountered

Frogs are the only amphibians in Madagascar. There are no toads, salamanders, newts, or caecilians.

Malagasy painted mantella (Mantella madagascariensis)

Golden mantella (Mantella aurantiaca)

Blue-back reed frog (Heterixalus madagascariensis)

Madagascar bright-eyed frog (Boophis madagascariensis)

Southern tomato frog (Dyscophus guineti)

Lizards in Madagascar I Encountered

There are over 300 species of lizards in Madagascar. Chameleons and geckos are the most well-known lizards so I put them in separate posts.

Chameleons – iconic lizards of Madagascar
Leaf-tailed geckos – masters of camouflage
Day geckos – unusually diurnal geckos

Besides, there are some other interesting lizards I found which are lesser-known.

Three-eyed lizard (Chalarodon madagascariensis)

One of the 8 species of Madagascan iguanas. It is also called Malagasy collared lizard. I found them in Ifaty (south) and Morondava (west).

Day Geckos in Madagascar I Encountered

Phelsuma is a genus of geckos mostly found in Mauritius and Madagascar. Day geckos are especially easier for me to spot than other geckos not only because of their bright green color but also their unusually diurnal behavior. I found them not only in the field but also in many of the rooms I stayed just like house geckos.

Madagascar giant day gecko (Phelsuma grandis)

Gold dust day gecko (Phelsuma laticauda)

Peacock day gecko (Phelsuma quadriocellata)

See other Lizards in Madagascar I Encountered

Leaf-tailed Geckos in Madagascar I Encountered

Uroplatus is a genus of geckos, commonly known as leaf-tail geckos, which are endemic to Madagascar. If you think chameleons are experts at camouflage I’d say the leaf-tailed geckos are the masters of camouflage. At some point, they could be at the same difficulty level to spot in the jungle as stick insects. Not only does their tail resemble a leaf, most of their body parts are exactly like tree branch textures. Locals describe them as “half plant, half animal”. Luckily I have found a number of them during my trip to Madagascar.

Giant leaf-tailed gecko (Uroplatus fimbriatus)

Mossy leaf-tailed gecko (Uroplatus sikorae)

Satanic leaf-tailed gecko (Uroplatus phantasticus)

Lined leaf-tailed gecko (Uroplatus lineatus)

See other Lizards in Madagascar I Encountered

Lemurs in Madagascar I Encountered

Indri (Indri indri)

Once upon a time, there were extinct lemurs as big as gorillas. Today, the Indri is the largest extant lemur species. But it is critically endangered, too.

Ring-tailed lemur (Lemur catta)

This species is not just the icon of all lemurs but also the national animal of Madagascar. 

White sifaka (Propithecus verreauxi)

Milne-Edwards’ sifaka (Propithecus edwardsi)

Black-and-white ruffed lemur (Varecia variegata)

I don’t know how much more luck I could have asked for to be able not only to encounter but got so close to these critically endangered beauties. It’s actually super close as the shot’s by a fisheye lens.

The front one’s looking at my hair while the one behind’s yelling at me. What an encounter with the Black-and-white ruffed lemurs in the rainforest of Madagascar.

In very few habitats on earth where the animals would still have so much trust towards humans nowadays. They deserve conservation.

Red ruffed lemur (Varecia rubra)

Greater bamboo lemur (Prolemur simus)

Eastern lesser bamboo lemur (Hapalemur griseus)

Black lemur (Eulemur macaco)

Crowned lemur (Eulemur coronatus)

Aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis)

The Aye-aye is the most evil animal in the eyes of local people. They believe that it means death when their elongated middle finger points at someone. The Aye-aye would scare the poop out of most (even local) people if they encounter one at night in the woods. But for me, I’d been feeling so much luck and blessing for the encounter with this most bizarre animal.

The title of “Devil of Madagascar” is the reason why most of the Aye-ayes got killed by local people. Comparing to poaching or game hunting, this kind of killing is even more ridiculous. I’ve told every Malagasy people I met about this wrong belief and most of them understood and agreed not to kill them anymore.

Related post: Mammals in Madagascar I Encountered

Mammals in Madagascar I Encountered

Most of my sightings of mammals in Madagascar are lemurs. I’ve put them in another post – Lemurs in Madagascar I Encountered

Other than lemurs, there are many interesting and lesser-known mammals I have found in Madagascar.

Lesser hedgehog tenrec (Echinops telfairi)

Surprisingly, the tenrecs are related to sea cows and elephants but not hedgehogs! They look largely similar to hedgehogs of mainland Africa as a result of convergent evolution. Don’t judge an animal by its look. This species is endemic to the southern and southwestern parts of Madagascar. I found most of the tenrecs in Ifaty, southern Madagascar.

Ring-tailed mongoose (Galidia elegans)

Mongooses (not mongeese) here got a fired up tail. While the Ring-tailed lemur is the national animal of Madagascar, the Ring-tailed mongoose is unheard of for most people.

Fossa (Cryptoprocta ferox)

Such a unique island fostering so many endemic species of a great variety where, surprisingly, there’s so little hostility between each of them. Take a look at this 2.5-foot cat-like laid-back mongoose-related mammal – The top apex predator and largest carnivore in Madagascar.

The story doesn’t end here. There is something unique about the fossa which not many have heard of. They have special genitalia. Males have a baculum – a bone in the penis. Females look just like males with an enlarged clitoris with an internal bone and spines. They even produce yellow secretion similar to that seen on adult males. Their anus is more internal than regular. Their scientific name Cryptoprocta actually means hidden anus.

Chameleons in Madagascar I Encountered

In my last 6-week trip to Madagascar, I have been to most of the districts in the country except the extreme north such as Nosy Be where I already visited a few times in the past. I went on field trips every day (and night). There have been 183 chameleons in my findings. Here I’m collecting highlight photos of some of the chameleons I found during the herping trips.

If you will be visiting Madagascar for wildlife you will never miss the chameleons. There are about 202 known species of chameleons in the world, while 89+ of them are endemic to Madagascar. The rest of the family mainly hail from sub-Saharan Africa. Malagasy species are classified into 3 genera: Calumma,  Furcifer, and Brookesia.

1. Calumma

All 37 species are endemic to Madagascar. This genus contains some small chameleons to the world’s largest species (Parson’s chameleon).

Parson’s chameleon (Calumma parsonii)

The largest (heaviest) species of chameleon in the world. The largest Oustalets’s chameleons might be a bit longer in length but are incomparable in weight. Male Parson’s have a pair of warty horns between eyes and nose. I found them mainly in the east and the north. Not only are they bigger than other chameleons but also they live a longer life. The average lifespan of the Parson’s chameleon is 10 years while it’s usually less than 5 years for other chameleons.

Malthe’s chameleon (Calumma malthe)

Short-horned chameleon (Calumma brevicorne)

Also known as Elephant-eared chameleon, I found this species on the east side of the island.

Perinet chameleon (Calumma gastrotaenia)

Also known as Malagasy side-striped chameleon, it is a small species I found in central and eastern Madagascar.

Nose-horned chameleon (Calumma nasutum)

Also known as Big-nosed Chameleon. A small species I found in the east.

Lance-nosed chameleon (Calumma gallus)

Also known as Blade chameleon. A small species I only found in a few locations in the east.

2.  Furcifer

This genus contains 22 species which are mostly endemic to Madagascar, including the longest species (Oustalets’s chameleon) and one of the most well-known species (Panther chameleon).

Oustalets’s chameleon (Furcifer oustaleti)

Also known as Malagasy giant chameleon. With a snout-tail length of over 68 cm this is considered the longest species of chameleon in the world. Among all of the chameleons I found, this species tends to have the widest range that I could find almost every district I visited.

During a hot and dry day in Sakaraha, south-western Madagascar, I came across this gorgeous but dehydrated one. Dehydration of a chameleon is easy to tell by finding sunken eyes. They don’t recognize still water so I tried to help him by dripping water from my bottle. After a minute of dripping around his snout he started to recognize the water and lick from my hand for 3 minutes. Hopefully he could recover and thrive.

Crocodile chameleon (Furcifer verrucosus)

Also known as Warty or spiny chameleon. It is closely related to the Oustalets’s chameleon.

Panther chameleon (Furcifer pardalis)

Panther chameleon is definitely the number one most common Malagasy species of chameleon in captivity elsewhere in the world. But here in Madagascar, I just don’t find them everywhere. They only naturally exist in the very northeast. The coloration of males largely varies with locales, anywhere from red, yellow, green to bluish turquoise. Females remain tan and brown with hints of pink, peach or orange.

Its scientific name pardalis means leopard, which obviously is about their spots and pattern. No idea how it turned into panther though. But there is never a rule for the common name of a reptile.

This is by far the most aggressive species, in general, I have experienced in this country. Every time I got close, even before I tried to handle them, they would not hesitate to turn their face to me with a wide-open mouth trying to scare me away.

Canopy chameleon (Furcifer willsii)

Also known as Wills’ chameleon (not Will’s). I found them in the east and central.

Carpet chameleon (Furcifer lateralis)

Jewelled chameleon (Furcifer campani)

3. Brookesia

Leaf chameleons or Dwarf chameleons are not only the smallest chameleons but also among the smallest reptiles in the world. All 30 species are endemic to Madagascar. Unlike typical chameleons, leaf chameleons lack vibrant coloration. They are mostly gray to brown resembling dead leaves. It’s especially hard to spot them in the jungle. The best camouflage is all about staying subtle, low key and still.

Brown leaf chameleon (Brookesia superciliaris)

I spent quite a while in a rather dry forest in Ramofana before I could spot these Brown leaf chameleons.

Domergue’s leaf chameleon (Brookesia thieli)

This one was found in Analamazaotra.

Perinet leaf chameleon (Brookesia therezieni)

At the moment I spotted this Perinet leaf chameleon in Ramofana, on a plant about my knee’s height on wet mud, there were a couple of Greater bamboo lemurs right above my head on the tree top. Not only are the lemurs critically endangered also they cannot be easily found anywhere else in Madagascar. However, I chose to approach this Perinet leaf chameleon and took these shots. I should have gone after the lemurs first as they would not have stayed at a spot like the chameleons. But I’m happy with the encounter with such an impressive critter in a tiny size.

See other Lizards in Madagascar I Encountered

Not All Alligators Are American

“Alligator or crocodile?” is hardly an easy game to play even for reptile lovers. The difference of the shape of snouts is not too obvious. Convergent evolution might be a bit too hard to understand. Most people’s idea is that alligators are the ones in the US and the rest are all crocodiles. Some even think that both are the same animals with different names in American and British English.

American alligator

I guess it’s safe to say that the word alligator sounds American. As a matter of fact, the origin of the name is more from Spanish. Every time when I mentioned the Chinese alligator (Alligator sinensis) my American friends would be shocked to learn the fact that the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) is not the only alligator in the world. Indeed, there are two species of alligators in the world.

The Chinese alligator, also known as the Yangtze alligator (揚子鱷), is not only critically endangered but also a very little known species, comparing to its more common American cousin. In Chinese, alligator and crocodile share the same word. Thus, there’s no such trouble telling apart alligators from crocodiles in China.

Chinese alligator


Why Do Some Lizards Have Forked Tongues?

Animals tongues are much more useful than humans!

Red tegu

Different Shapes of Tongues

Most of the lizards have short and round tongues. Chameleons have elongated, extrudable tongues yet not forked. The only lizards with a serpent-like forked tongue are the carnivorous ones of a larger size in family Varanidae (Monitors, goannas, Komodo dragon) and Teiidae (Tegus, whiptails, caiman lizards).

Northern caiman lizard

How Do Their Tongues Work?

Snakes and some lizards rely on flicking out their tongues to collect environmental information. Every flick receives odors and miniscule moisture particles floating in the air. When the tongue is back into their Jacobson’s organ the collected data will be processed and converted into a 3D image resembling the surrounding environment.

Komodo dragon

Why Better Split?

Being forked in the tip helps them tell objects on the left from the right. The difference is the lizards forked tongues are way longer than snakes. Lizards have higher mobility with heads higher up above ground hence the longer tongues help to reach the ground for the smell of earth.

Lace monitor

I Am a Fictional Character

I have become a character in this new book – ‘The Golden Age‘ by Marianne Andersen.

How amazing! And I just realized that I am the only character based on a real person! This is when I collected this very perfect copy together with author autograph. Parents and educators, you must check out this upcoming book. It is about a kid’s imagination and journeys in Hong Kong.