All posts by MantellaMan

Malagasy Nature Photographs – Mitsinjo Forest Reserve & Parc a Orchidees 1

Hi Everyone,

So, what interests people the most about my trips are not only my experiences, but also and most obviously… My photographs! Which, to be honest I entirely agree with because it’s great to simply see these species where they belong.

In this first photograph blog entry, I will be in the Mitsinjo Forest Reserve (Analamazaotra Forest Station) and the Parc a Orchidees (Orchid Park). I spent a lot of time here, which is a huge understatement thats for sure and I loved it! The majority of my time here (on hikes) was spent at night and I cannot deny that it was truly amazing, having been on well over 12 Night Hikes and I saw a vast quantity of fauna and flora it was unreal. Here is a list of how many species I saw within the time period I was there:

Mammals (Mammalia): 9
Amphibians (Amphibia): 34
Reptiles (Reptilia): 18
Invertebrates (Arthropoda): 43
Birds (Aves): 7

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It is Located just across the main road (leading to Andasibe) from the Andasibe-Mantadia National Park, which is situated near to the Analamazaotra river. It is composed of a little over 700 ha (2.7 miles) of rainforest and an abandoned timber plantation that is being currently restored to native forest by Association Mitsinjo (Malagasy for “To look ahead to provide for the future”). Known primarily as the best place in Madagascar to view the Indri, it is home to at least 12 other species of lemur such as the Goodman’s Mouse Lemur (Microcebus lehilahytsara) and the Eastern Woolly Lemur (Avahi laniger) and is highly popular for Herpetologists for the high diversity of Reptilia, Amphibia and Arthropoda species with vast numbers readily observed (Depending on season).

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Launched in 2011, the ASACA was the first Biosecure facility in Madagascar. With extremely effcient procedures, they are true pinoneers for the insitu conservation of Amphibia.
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A small portion of the Live Food cultures that are maintained at the facility, pictured are the Cricket colonies starting up.

It is also home to the Mitsinjo Amphibian Conservation Facility or Amphibian Survival Assurance Center of Andasibe (ASACA) and the brand new Education centre which will be open to Schools and to the public who wish to see the hard work going into conserving the rainforests in the surrounding area. Personally, as I helped at the facility during my time here, I found the facility to be outstanding and in all honesty was highly impressed by the work that Devin Edmonds and his team are doing to conserve many species of Amphibia, including the critically endangered Golden Mantella (Mantella aurantiaca) one of Madagascar’s most iconic species.

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Diane (Left) and Linah (Right) pictured preparing new Fruitfly cultures for the facilty.

The current wards for the facility include a vast quanitity of not just amphibians (where over 500 specimens reside) but also the very food that is provided for them. All the dietary items are foudn from the forests themselves as starter colonies and are maintained by all the team who take turns in looking after it all. They are entirely self sufficient in this sense, which personally to me makes me wonder why this practice is not performed in Zoological collections in the same or similar manner.

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Being a huge part of the Analamazoatra Forest Station and the Andasibe-Mantadia National Park (Maintained by both reserves) the Parc a Orchidees is a small part of the Mitsinjo Forest and is home to not only animals, but a wide range of species of Orchid (obviously) that are hugely diverse with some measuring as little as an inch long with flowers smaller still. The centre of this area is a small lake/pond which is filled with the sound of Mantidactylus, Aglyptodactylus and other species of Amphibia there, this is definitely even more so when it comes to the breeding season.

Anyway, I believe it’s time to show off some photographs from my Day Hikes into the Mitsinjo Forest and Orchid Park!

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Pygmy Brown Leaf Chameleon (Brookesia supercililaris) male specimen. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Pygmy Brown Leaf Chameleon (Brookesia supercililaris) male specimen. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
Black-sided Jumping Frog (Mantidactylus melanoplura) young. © 2015 - Joshua Ralph - All Rights Reserved.
Black-sided Frog (Mantidactylus melanopleura) young. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
Black-sided Jumping Frog (Mantidactylus melanoplura) young. © 2015 - Joshua Ralph - All Rights Reserved.
Black-sided Frog (Mantidactylus melanopleura) young. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Madagascan Canary Frog (Aglyptodactylus madagascariensis) male specimen. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Common Brown Lemur (Eulemur fulvus) feeding in the canopy. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
Charming Nun’s Cap Orchid (Phaius pulchellus var. sandrangatensis) in full bloom. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
Katharine’s Palm Frog (Guibemantis kathrinae) specimen. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
Common Brown Lemur (Eulemur fulvus) feeding in the canopy. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
Andasibe Praying Mantis (Mantodea sp. unknown). © 2015 - Joshua Ralph - All Rights Reserved.
Andasibe Praying Mantis (Mantodea sp. unknown). © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
Guibemantis sp. nov. (New Species)
Guibemantis sp. nov. (New Species) “Andasibe” in a Vakona. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
Beautiful Palm Frog (Guibemantis pulcher) spawn under attack from a winged Queen Ant sp. © 2015 - Joshua Ralph - All Rights Reserved.
Beautiful Palm Frog (Guibemantis pulcher) spawn under attack from a winged Queen Ant sp. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
Beautiful Palm Frog (Guibemantis pulcher) spawn under attack from a winged Queen Ant sp. © 2015 - Joshua Ralph - All Rights Reserved.
Beautiful Palm Frog (Guibemantis pulcher) spawn under attack from a winged Queen Ant sp. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
Giraffe Weevil (Trachelophorus giraffa) Nest-tube. © 2015 - Joshua Ralph - All Rights Reserved
Giraffe Weevil (Trachelophorus giraffa) Nest-tube. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved
Giraffe Weevil (Trachelophorus giraffa) specimen resting upon a leaf of the Dichaetanthera arborea tree. © 2015 - Joshua Ralph - All Rights Reserved.
Giraffe Weevil (Trachelophorus giraffa) specimen resting upon a leaf of the Dichaetanthera arborea tree. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
Giraffe Weevil (Trachelophorus giraffa) specimen, amazing to see up close. © 2015 - Joshua Ralph - All Rights Reserved.
Giraffe Weevil (Trachelophorus giraffa) specimen, amazing to see up close. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.

Anyway, This is the end of the first photo-blog entry for my site, please share and show as many people as you can the amazing nature that is to be found upo the Island of Marvels.

Until next time folks!

Kind regards,

Joshua Ralph
(MantellaMan)

Island of Marvels: Madagascar – The greatest biological hotspot on the planet.

When I normally write about specific species, or even my diary entries for popular media articles, I normally have to stick to quite a strict word count limit. This, quite obviously results in the facts and information I provide about anything, not being provided in its fullest form which to me is simply not good enough!

So, I suppose it can be seen as a very good thing that I am writing within a blog now as well, so things are actually explained in greater and more referable detail for the public.

Now, as this is the first official blog entry for my website, I think something appropriate is required, to start from the beginning and what better place to start than with the island of marvels itself, one of the most important and highly biologically diverse countries on the planet. This of course is the Republic of Madagascar.

Measuring a grand total of 592,800 square kilometres (228,900 sq miles), it is the fourth largest island on the planet.
Measuring a grand total of 592,800 square kilometres (228,900 sq miles), it is the fourth largest island on the planet.

Approximately 120 million years ago (mya), the super continent known as Gondwana or Gondwanaland began to separate itself and start to form into the landmasses that exist today. With this, the Indian peninsula drifted away from its parent continent of Africa and 88 million years later, the island that would now be called Madagascar was finally born, with its split from India. Measuring a grand total of 592,800 square kilometres (or 228,900 sq miles for those of you that prefer to use this form of measurement), in is recorded as the fourth largest island on the

planet and with this quantity of land along with total island isolation, the wildlife upon it have had all this time to evolve into the life you can find today. Most of which are entirely endemic, as a matter of fact over 90% of all life on Madagascar can only be found upon it.

This completely unique and diverse menagerie is thanks to its geological past, with the landmass being situated in the direct centre of the Gondwana super continent. This of course at this time (approximately 140 mya) in prehistory, was about the time when life on earth was changing, with species of flora finally blossoming and blooming, primitive species of Mammalia and Aves (Birds) were emerging and co-existing with earths current longest surviving inhabitants, the Dinosaurs. Each of these classes of life were finding their niches and, when the mass extinction of the Dinosaurs occurred, the would-be island started to come into its own.

Life however, from the island, are in fact made up of a mixture of different lineages and not all as old as some of their Gondwana era originating livestock. Most are the descendants of hitch-hiking or migrating ancestors that arrived much later than this, either floating upon pieces of drift wood from the east African coast or perhaps even traversing great distances by swimming or flying to reach this destination, eventually marooning themselves or simply never leaving the rich and highly diverse habitats of the land.

Golden Mantella (Mantella aurantiaca) at the Menalamba locality of the Torotorofotsy Wetland Reserve. ©2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.

Now, in the present day, it is listed as one of the most biologically diverse landmasses on the planet and a huge hotspot for biologists, zoologists and other nature-lovers. Fact is, if you love your Fauna and Flora, this is the place for you! (Myers et al. 2000)

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The step-by-step breakup of the super continent of Gondwana, over the course of 140 million years. Madagascar is highlighted red upon each map.

It certainly is a lot to take in, even when it is written in its simplest form using the very basic of information. But of course, that isn’t where this blog entry ends, I think you diverse knowing about some of the life found upon it today.

In respects to Herpetology, the vast amount of Amphibia (99.5%), Arthropoda and Reptilia (92%) is outstanding and there are still more and more being discovered every year. Regarding Amphibia, currently there is thought to be roughly 300 species accounted for that have been described, however more are still awaiting appropriate description and even discovery. According to the R. G. B. Perl and other researchers, in the article titled “DNA Barcoding Madagascar’s Amphibian Fauna”, it is listed that just over 500 species are to be found within their country of origin, but it is believed to inhabit a greater amount than above said quantity, by approximately 200 species.

However, not all Amphibian life found there is endemic, 2 species, which are highly invasive have found their way onto Madagascan soil which include the following species:

• Asian Common Toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus)
• Indus Valley Bullfrog (Hoplobatrachus tigerinus)

Anyway, I think that is enough for this entry and I will conclude this two-part blog entry in the next few days. Take care and keep on loving nature!!

Joshua Ralph

References an Further Reading:
Perl, R.G.B., Nagy, Z.T., Sonet, G., Glaw, F., Wollenberg, K.C. & Vences, M. (2014) DNA barcoding Madagascar’s amphibian fauna.
Glaw, F. & Vences, M. (2007) A Field Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of Madagascar.
Austin, D & Bradt, Hilary. (2014) Bradt Guide: Madagscar.