Tag Archives: Madagascar

Malagasy Nature Photographs – Menalamba locality, Torotorofotsy Wetlands Reserve.

Hi Everyone,

Within this photograph blog entry, I will be in the Torotorofotsy Wetlands Reserve, located north of the torn of Andasibe.

Being one of my first days in Madagascar and with the breeding season of a few species I so desperately wanted to see nearly over, Devin Edmonds (Director of the ASACA facility in Andasibe) and myself made an attempted to find a species that pretty much kicked started our passion at such a young age for us both.  This was of course Madagascar’s most iconic species of Amphibian, the critically endangered Golden Mantella (Mantella aurantiaca).

A day I will remember for the rest of my lifetime!

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A Primary School at the Menalambe village in the Torotorofotsy Wetlands Reserve, was very happy and surprised to see the regions (and country’s) most iconic Amphibian species painted on the school sign. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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A view we could see from the far side of the village, showing the expansive nature of the Torotorofotsy Wetlands, or what it would have been like before paddy after paddy of Rice fields were planted. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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After leaving the car, we made our way along the old rail tracks which were used to transport Lumber from the edges of the reserve. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Ahead of us was Rennie, a local guide for the Torotorofotsy region. Fantastic guide and I got on with him incredibly well regardless of the language barrier! © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Eventually, after approxiamtely 45 minutes of walking, we got to the first sign telling us that we reached the actual Menalamba locality. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Right next to that sign, well as you can see, was a wooden bridge that was made. Regardless of appearances, it was very sturdy… If your sensse of balance is okay! © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Almost instantly, we went straight to hunting for the critically endangered species, I made sure not to get my hopes up however as I knew it was the end of the breeding season and it was right about the time the animals left their breeding grounds. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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About an hour into our search, we still had no luck, but we moved “Mora Mora” or translated from Malagasy “Slowly Slowly” making sure we turned over every leaf! © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Indiana Jones, eat your heart out (It wasnt intentional to look like him!). © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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We did come across a breeding pond for the Golden Mantella (Mantella aurantiaca) specimens in the area, and within it we found… © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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… Some Tadpoles!! A little game of “Spot the Tadpoles” is in order, can you see them? © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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We had almost given up and after two and a half hours, me and Devin had decided that instead of carrying at this particular area that we should move on to the next one… Until, we heard shouting from Rennie and Fano telling us to come quickly as they have found a specimen! © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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And that was it, I had finally seen the species of Amphibian that started my entire career and passion from such a young age. It was so amazing, that I almost cried to myself and was utterly speechless. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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I avoided all movement, for the next 20 minutes, as I was so worried about hurting the specimen. However, it turns out that this little male wasn’t alone… There was a female with him too! © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Gorgeous colouration on both the male (pictured) and female, a deep reddish orange colour that is quite typical of the wild specimens of the species. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Another photograph of the male Golden Mantella (Mantella aurantiaca) specimen. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Golden Mantella (Mantella aurantiaca) male specimen. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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A wild pairing of Golden Mantella (Mantella aurantiaca) at the ‘Menalamba’ locality within the Torotorofotsy Wetland Reserve. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Golden Mantella (Mantella aurantiaca) male specimen. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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The Golden Mantella (Mantella aurantiaca) pair again. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Golden Mantella (Mantella aurantiaca) pair, Male (Top Left) and Female (Bottom Right). © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Golden Mantella (Mantella aurantiaca) female specimen. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Golden Mantella (Mantella aurantiaca) female specimen. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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She decided to launch herself at my camera and got slightly dirty, hence the bits of leaf litter covering her. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Golden Mantella (Mantella aurantiaca) female covered in dirt, however I quite like the more natural appearance. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Golden Mantella (Mantella aurantiaca). © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Golden Mantella (Mantella aurantiaca) female specimen. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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I was entirely captivated by them, that I just watched them and observed them for the entire time. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Devin Edmonds (Left), Joshua Ralph (Middle) and Rennie (Right). © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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We decided to move on to the next locality, as you can see, Devin was lucky enough to get mobile signal for his snapchats! © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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So, we decided to move on and try our luck at another locality, one that was particularly well known to experts to be covered in Golden Mantella (Mantella aurantiaca) during breeding season. (I will not be listing the name of the locality) © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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We firstly took the pathways, whilst Devin got out his GPS and tried to find his book marked locations for the breeding ponds. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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It wasn’t long however, until we found evidence that the local teams that were meant to be protecting the site, hadn’t been doing their jobs with signs of felling that was recently performed! © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Not only that, but we also found a destroyed Golden Mantella breeding pond, that had been mined for Gold. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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We walked along a stream, but heard no mating calls from the males and potentially there were no specimens left and had left to hide away until the next breeding season. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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We did find this gorgeous Arachnida specimen in the pathway, amazing morphology but like most Arthropoda it is yet to be described. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.

 © 2015 – The photographs and information written is copyrighted by Joshua Ralph of MantellaMan Conservation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Golden Mantella (Mantella aurantiaca) Care Sheet

If you didnt know already, I have approximately 15 years experience keeping and breeding species of Amphibia, with a speciality within the genus of Mantella frogs from Madagascar. So, below you will find a care guide to how I keep and breed the said species.

Author: Joshua S. Ralph.
Establishment/Organisation: MantellaMan Conservation.

Common name: Golden Mantella (Malagasy Golden Mantella, Madagascan Golden Frog, Golden Frog, Orange Mantella, Red Mantella)
Scientific name: Mantella aurantiacaMocquard, 1900.
Family: Mantellidae
Country of Origin: Madagascar.
Localities: North and South of the Moramanga region, at the Torotorofotsy Wetland Reserve (c. 7km north-west of Andasibe); Andromena Forest at the Samarirana River.

Golden Mantella (Mantella aurantiaca) Care Sheet

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A wild pairing of Golden Mantella (Mantella aurantiaca) at the ‘Menalamba’ locality within the Torotorofotsy Wetland Reserve. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Close up of a wild breeding pond containing more than a few different species of Anura tadpoles, including Golden Mantella (Mantella aurantiaca). © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Golden Mantella (Mantella aurantiaca) breeding pond, found within the ‘Menalamba’ locality of the Torotorofotsy Wetland Reserve. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Close of captive breed Golden Mantella (Mantella aurantiaca) offspring, during their Tadpole lifestage. © 2013 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Captive bred Golden Mantella (Mantella aurantiaca) offspring, during the last few days of their time within their egg sacs. © 2013 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.

Copyright © – The attached husbandry/care sheet and all information, photographs and designs are copyrighted to Joshua Ralph – 2016.

Yellow Mantella (Mantella crocea) Care Sheet

If you didnt know already, I have approximately 15 years experience keeping and breeding species of Amphibia, with a speciality within the genus of Mantella frogs from Madagascar. So, below you will find a care guide to how I keep and breed the said species.

Author: Joshua S. Ralph.
Establishment/Organisation: MantellaMan Conservation.

Common name: Yellow Mantella (Eastern Golden Frog, Eastern Mantella)
Scientific name: Mantella croceaPintak & Böhme, 1990
Family: Mantellidae
Country of Origin: Madagascar.
Localities: Bakozetra west of Parc National de Mantadia; Ifoha west of Parc National de Mantadia; a forest area east of Ambohimanarivo; and outside the Réserve Naturelle Intégrale de Zahamena.

Yellow Mantella (Mantella crocea) Care Sheet

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Yellow Mantella (Mantella crocea) ‘Bakozetra’ locality west of the Parc National de Mantadia, near the Torotorofotsy Wetlands Reserve. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Wild Yellow Mantella (Mantella crocea) of the ‘Bakozetra’ locality, performing ‘Thanatosis’ (Greek for “Playing Dead”) showing bright red flash marks. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.

Copyright © – The attached husbandry/care sheet and all information, photographs and designs are copyrighted to Joshua Ralph – 2015.

Amphibian Conservation Fundraising Event.

Some of you that are now reading this blog entry may know me already, but from those of you that don’t or haven’t read my ‘About Me’ section on my website, then please allow me to introduce my self, my name is Joshua Ralph and I am a Batrachologist, Conservationist and Zoo Keeper. Now, some of you that aren’t really familar to animal terminology my be wondering what on earth a ‘Batrachologist’ is, well it is a person who specialises in the study of Amphibia (Frogs, Toads, Newts, Salamanders and Caecillians) within the specific field of zoology.

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Me at the Bakozetra locality in the Torotorofotsy Wetlands Reserve, Madagascar. A well known locality hosting the endangered Yellow Mantella (Mantella crocea) species, a genus I love the most within the class of Amphibia. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.

I have always loved working with and keeping Amphibian species, and it is my upmost passion and a path I have chosen to work within since before the age of seven years old. As generalised as I try to be, I am incredibly biased towards the species found upon a very biologically important and completely unique island, this of course is Madagascar. For those of you that aren’t entirely aware of the island or infact knew it was a real place, let me give you some information regarding it.

MADAGASCAR IN AN OVERFLOWING NUTSHELL.
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), it 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. 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 out of all the species of Amphibia found on Madagascar, 99.5% of them are completely endemic. According to 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.

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

These amazing animals, are currently in trouble (as is the case for a majority of life upon the island) with risks from highly invasive species such as the Asian Common Toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus) and the deadly fungal infection, Chytridiomycosis (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) a fungal disease that has caused the extinction of many species across the planet already!!

CHYTRIDIOMYCOSIS – THE LETHAL AMPHIB KILLER.
Chytridiomycosis (or commonly known as Chytrid Fungus) is an emerging infectious disease to the class of Amphibians, caused by the aquatic fungal pathogen, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd). There are numerous Chytrid fungi members that can be found within the class of Chytridiomycetes. A lot of Chytrids are are what is known as Saprophytes, fungi living on the dead decaying organic matter, arguably making one of their most important ecological functions, decomposition. However Bd, is very unique in comparision to other Chytrids.

Having been first described in 1999, this new species was found to infect (with much success) Amphibian species. What makes this even more unusual, is the fact it is the only Chytrid to parasictically attack a vertebrate species and further more, specically only Amphibians. It is often highly contagious and infection predominately occurs inside the cells of the outer skin layers that contain large amounts of keratin.  As you may be aware, Keratin is what hair, feathers and claws are made of and helps by making the outside of the skin tough and more resistant to injury. The biggest trait that Amphibians predominately have is  a Permeable skin, which is highly important for Gaseous exchange that can take place with some of the class it also helps with the absorbtion of important salts (electrolytes) like sodium and potassium through the skin. Chytridiomycosis, changes that entirely, forcing the skin to become thicker due to Microscopic changes that are known as “hyperplasia and hyperkeratosis”. Abnormal electrolyte levels as the result of Bd-damage the skin causing the heart to literally stop beating and obviously killing the infected animal (Voyles et al., 2009 and in other species that are entirely dependant on their skin to breathe such as Lungless Salamanders, it causes suffocation.

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#SAVEMADAGASCAR – © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.

Both fortunately and unfortunately, not all Amphibians die from this fungal infection, with some species being “resistant” to the adverse effects and instead becoming carriers. These species in particular, such as the African Clawed Frog (Xenopus laevis), are of major concern to all Amphibians susceptible to the fungus Zoospores, due to being able to spread the infection further and cause further damage to other populations and of course cause extinction. In approximately only 30 years, Bd has caused the catastrophic decline or extinction (in many cases within a single year) of at least 200 species of frogs, even in pristine, remote habitats (Skerratt et al. 2007) some of them iconic such as the Australian Gastro-brooding Frogs (Rheobatrachus) and the neotropical Golden Toad (Incilius periglenes).

I wish to raise money for my associate partner, the Amphibian Survival Alliance (Amphibians.org) and their projects to eliminate the threats that Madagascar’s amphibians are facing, by doing something unusual and difficult.

THE PILGRIM’S WAY (UK)- WINCHESTER TO CANTERBURY SPONSORED WALK.
As a side hobby, on the weekends I re-enact 12th century Norman England with one of the UK’s premiere 12th century re-enactment societies, where I perform in unscripted and realistic combat displays. As a result, I own a lot of Norman period warriors attire, from real Maille (Chainmail as you may incorrectly know it), steel Helmets, heavy duty shields to even weaponry.

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Me in my very real armour, one of the many different forms of armour of a Norman warrior during the 12th century would have worn. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.

I wanted to do something a bit different to Skydiving or Bungee Jumping, and I finally decided that I will do a certain walk known as the Pilgrim’s Way, a 119+ mile pilgrimage route from Winchester (Hampshire, UK) to Canterbury (Kent, UK), a journey taking 12-14 days in total. However, I am not just doing a walk, oh no, its far more interesting than that! I plan to do this wearing the full attire of a 12th century Norman warrior, head to toe clad in armour and clothing authentic to the period. (I will weigh all my clothing and equipment I will take I know what you are more than likely saying, “This has nothing to do with animals.” and “What does this have to do with Amphibians?” And my answer to that is, well, it doesn’t have to have anything to do with my passion and the conservation efforts currently taking place in Madagascar. Also, my own reasons for doing this walk has NOTHING to do with relgion, it is just something that I thought would be both challenging and interesting.

Anyway, I shall be posting again shortly and creating a section on my website that will be dedicated to my Fundraising event so please do share this page for now on Facebook, Twitter etc so we can all make a difference and save the Amphibians of Madagascar whilst we still can…

Thank you for reading,

Joshua Ralph
(MantellaMan)

Malagasy Nature Photographs – Maromizaha Reserve Speciale (Day Hike)11/04/15

Hi Everyone,

Within this photograph blog entry, I will be in the Maromizaha Reserve Speciale for an entire day hike through this amazing rainforest valley.

This particular day proved spectacular for a majority of Fauna and Flora species, from Chameleons to Amphibia, especially when it came to finding a very young Short-horned Chameleon (Calumma brevicorne) with an amazing colouration, miniture orchid species and amazing views from vantage points.

The amount of species I saw this day were as follows:

Mammals (Mammalia): 1
Amphibians (Amphibia): 15
Reptiles (Reptilia): 6
Invertebrates (Arthropoda): 9
Birds (Aves): 2

 

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Early start for me on this day, I was up with excitement at 4am! Once it got to the time I had to be ready, it was light and I took some photographs of the slightly wilder parts of Andasibe Town, including these Rice Paddies! © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Round this outer part of Andasibe, you can find parts of the Forest that still exist. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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In these Rice Paddies, you can hear the continuious chorus of the Malagasy Canary Frog (Aglyptodactylus madagascariensis), whom use these man-made pools to breed within. They are named the “Canary” Frog due to their ability to turn bright yellow during the mating season! © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Everything in the early mornings is just a beautiful mixture of lush greens. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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A fruit I started to eat a lot of during my time in Madagascar, in the form of “Mofo Akondro” (Banana Fritters) and this is grown in someones garden! © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved
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My ride arrived and we stopped by the Association Mitsinjo Forest Station Office, to pick up a guest that me and Pierre (Paa) would guide through the Maromizaha Reserve Speciale for the day, this was Serge Pasquasy with his Wife and Brother in-law. However, Serge was still not awake as he had been wandering the roadside until 4am!! © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Whilst waiting for Serge to awaken from his slumber, I took some photographs of a Madagascan Wag-tail (Motacilla flaviventris) that had landed a few feet away from me. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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We eventually reached one of the far ends of the Maromizaha Reserve, ad we walked for approximately 45 minutes until we got to the Forests edge. We walked through countless fields of crops and turned out that once, not too long ago, all these agricultural lands were all Rainforest… A very sad sight to behold. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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However, we got there, to the edge of the Rainforest of Maromizaha but, we had a lot more walking to go still as it was only 8am by this time. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Maromizaha Reserve Speciale Forest. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Before long, we began to see the early risers of the forest. Including this, still very sleepy, Short-horned Chameleon (Calumma brevicorne) male specimen. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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He wasnt very impressed with being disturbed by us and our persistant photography demands. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Eventually, the sound of running water was brought to our attention, at some parts (inaccessible) large waterfalls! This was the first crossing we made on a narrower part of the stream. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Wasn’t long before we found the Giant Emerald Pill-bugs (Zoosphaerium neptunus) of Maromizaha, which gather in vast numbers along the pathways. To what end, we still do not know entirely. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Unfortunately, you can’t pick them up without them curling into their defensive balls but this was certainly large. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Beautiful, lush rainforest stream, would you believe me when I say we still arent in the actual reserve yet? © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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We reached the Multipurpose Center Maromizaha Forest Shelter where Dr Valeria Torti and her team were staying whilst performing important research in the reserve on Lemur species. Just below the steps, there was part of the small stream, where there were hundreds of newly morphed Betsileo Jumping Frogs (Mantidactylus betsileanus). © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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This newly morphed Betsileo Jumping Frog (Mantidactylus betsileanus) specimen was no bigger than half the size of my little finger nail! © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Above us, whilst searching the undergrowth for more M.betsileanus metamorphs, a Blue Madagascar Coua (Coua caerulea) was flying and perching over head, clearing watching us and waiting for us to leave! © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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We continued our trek uphil, in search of a small family of Diademed Sifaka (Propithecus diadema), we saw an unusual “plant” on a large tree, it was only until we got closer that we worked out what it really was. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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It was a young Short-horned Chameleon (Calumma brevicorne) specimen, blending into its surroundings amongst hanging plant species. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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A close up of the Short-horned Chameleon (Calumma brevicorne) young. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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© 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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The Trek led further up-hill till we found the family of Diademed Sifaka (Propithecus diadema) which had 5-7 members within it, including young. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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One of the younger Diademed Sifaka (Propithecus diadema) members. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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A small Dypsis hildebrandtii palm specimen. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Malagasy Paradise Flycatcher (Terpsiphone mutata mutata) Nest, it was incredibly low down but it was certainly no longer in use. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Malagasy Paradise Flycatcher (Terpsiphone mutata mutata) Nest © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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At an abandoned camping station deeping in the forest, on the way to the Maromizaha Waterfalls, we stumbled across a beautiful Madagascan Yellow-striped Water Snake (Thamnosophis lateralis) specimen, however with a blink of an eye (and flick of a camera shutter) it was gone. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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A smaller part of the stream, but a gorgeous sight! © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Gorgeous and very distinctive plant in the middle of the pathway. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Almost perfectly clear waters of the Maromizaha waterfalls. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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There are numerous mini-waterfalls along the pathway! © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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The cascading waters of Maromizaha, not a huge waterfall but certainly a pretty one! © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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A close up of the falls, gorgeous and a lucky shot. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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There is a natural trench just above the actual falls obviously formed over thousands of years. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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We had a break and ate our lunch, couldn’t think of a better place to have it, so we all sat just like Pierre (Paa) here is in this photograph. We also searched the area for Baron’s Mantella (Mantella baronii) as it was a known locality, however the timing during the day was wrong and the sun was out with no rainfall. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Camera shot of Serge and his wife, there is one of me he took somewhere!! © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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A incredibly lucky find, a Thiel’s Pygmy Chameleon (Brookesia thieli) specimen, comepletely perfect in everyway and a species I was hoping to find dring my trip. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Thiel’s Pygmy Chameleon (Brookesia thieli) © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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60ft later, we came across a Therezien’s Pygmy Chameleon (Brookesia therezieni) female with gorgeous colours! © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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We made our way back to the abandoned camp site and looked about the ruins and found several Bulbophyllum sp. which were not in bloom. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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An adult Betselio Jumping Frog (Mantidactylus betsleanus) specimen, found quite close to wehere we found the metamorphs. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Not far from the M.betsileanus there was a Vakona Palm and amongst it, a single Beautiful Palm Frog (Guibemantis pulcher) specimen, typically where you would find members of the genus. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Close up of the Beautiful Palm Frog (Guibemantis pulcher). © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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We eventually made our way back, to head towards the mountain pathway and found a place where various different Orchid species were placed, including Bulbophyllum sp. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Another Orchid species. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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And another… © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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However, the most remarkable and amazing I cam across was this particular species. The Malagasy Thumb-nail Orchid (Angraecum chamaeanthus). © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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This truly is miniture, the Angraecum chamaeanthus specimen is bearly an inch or so in length. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Absolutely perfect, al in proportion aswell! © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Cyinorchis sp. a species which was really beautiful to find! © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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And another beautiful and rather large species of flora, know as the Baron’s Balsam (Impatiens baronii). © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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The vine growing Pink Oeonia (Oeonia rosea) orchid, was very unusual. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph = All Rights Reserved.
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Oeonia rosea is simply gorgeous looking, no doubts about it! © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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As you can partly see, Oeonia rosea grows on vine-like stems. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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We eventually reached the top of the mountain-side, which hosted a marvellous view of the entire valley. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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© 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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All these photographs show the entire length of the forest we traversed that day! Isn’t far but there is lots of winding pathways. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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The beginning of our journey below! © 2015 – Joshua Ralgh – All Rights Reserved.
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Not quite sure how he knew but Paa picked up a fallen bamboo cane and split it to reveal a Scolopendra sp. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph -All Rights Reserved.
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I keep several species of Scolopendra in my personal collection and have worked with them in a few Zoological collections, and even though i can handle them, they seriously sare the daylights out of me! © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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We trekked further to the place where you go do rock climbing and absail down into a cave system at the top, unfortunately I wasn’t able to do this as it was to late in the day. © 2015 – All Rights Reserved.
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© 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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That small crag is where you have to rock climb. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Wide spread throughout the region, is the many different species of Guava Fruit, including the smaller Strawberry Guava (Psidium cattleyanum) comonly (incorrectly) called the “Chinese Guava” not because it originates from China, but due to being numerous and widespread. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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To mark the end of the journey, the hillsides of the surrounding region… How much of this used to be forest? © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.

 

Malagasy Nature Photographs – Mitsinjo Forest Reserve & Parc a Orchidees (Nocturnal Walk) 4

Hi Everyone,

Within this photograph blog entry, I will be in the Mitsinjo Forest Reserve (Analamazaotra Forest Station) and the Parc a Orchidees (Orchid Park) for another night hike (You do see so much at Night, my focus was upon nocturnal walks after a while, going on them every day).

This particular evening was fantastic for finding Chameleon species it seemed, especially when it came to finding young Short-horned Chameleon (Calumma brevicorne), Perinet Striped Chameleon (Calumma gastrotaenia) and Pygmy Leaf-nosed Chameleons (Calumma nasutum).

The amount of species I saw this night were as follows:

Mammals (Mammalia): 1
Amphibians (Amphibia): 10
Reptiles (Reptilia): 5
Invertebrates (Arthropoda): 12
Birds (Aves): 0

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Beautifully coloured Short-horned Chameleon (Calumma brevicorne) hatchling specimen. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Without having to venture to far, we came across a very young Short-horned Chameleon (Calumma brevicorne) specimen, just off the stone steps that lead down to the entrance of the forest. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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It was so small, couldn’t have been very old at all. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.

 

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Not far away though, I could hear the sound of a Flamed Bright-eyed Frog (Boophis pyrrhus) calling. Positioned perfectly upon this little collection of leaves. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Once disturbed however, he decided it was time to move, perhaps to a less obvious (to the human eye) position. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph.
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It appeared that it was the time of emergence for the offspring of my species of Chameleon, as we found several if not more Perinet Striped Chameleons (Calumma gastroteania) in single area. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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And another Short-horned Chameleon (Calumma brevicorne) hatchling, found deeper within the forest this time! © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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My second Amphibian species for the evening was another I hadn’t encountered before, Boulenger’s Jumping Frog (Gephyromantis boulengeri). Seemed completely unphased by me observing it. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Boulenger’s Jumping Frog (Gephyromantis boulengeri). © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Here we go again, another species of Malagasy Arachnid that is unknown. Beautiful and striking colouration. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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A young male Malagasy Common Canary Frog (Aglyptodactylus madagascariensis) specimen making his waythrough the forest, coming from the direction of the Parc a Orchidees lake. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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There happened to be quite a few Aglyptodactylus madagascariensis specimens making their way from the lake, really can’t wait to see them in their breeding colours! © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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What I did love, was coming across (upclose this time) one of the smaller species of the Calumma genus, the Pygmy Leaf-nosed Chameleon (Calumma nasutum). Dangling from the smallest of twigs. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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One of the first of many Green Bright-eyed Frogs (Boophis viridis) specimens I came across during my travels. So Vibrant. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Doesn’t matter how many times I came across them, Lowland Streaked Tenrec (Hemicentetes semispinosus) never fail to make me smile! © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Lowland Streaked Tenrec (Hemicentetes semispinosus) is such a stunning species. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Lowland Streaked Tenrec (Hemicentetes semispinosus) © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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And this is what happens when they panic whilst you are holding them! © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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An amphibian species to through into the mix, another I hadn’t come across until this night, the Betsileo Reed Frog (Heterixalus betsileo). © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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There were a few of these Mantid species scattered throughout the Parc a Orchidees, some in quite close proximity to each other. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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We may have seen quite a few hatchling Calumma brevicorne specimens however, this was the first we encountered in adult form that evening. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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As you can see, this female Short-horned Chameleon (Calumma brevicorne) was not to happy about being woken up! © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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As the evening drew to an end, we unexpectedly stumbled across this absolutely stunning male Christopher’s Parson’s Chameleon (Calumma parsonii cristifer). © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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This Calumma parsonii cristifer was the most strikingly coloured I have ever seen. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
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Perfect twin horns upon his snot and a gorgeous colouration. Amazing find to round of a great evening. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.

 

Part 2: The Island of Marvels. 01/03/15 – 6.30am to 12.30pm

01/03/15 – 6.30am to 12.30pm
Mitsinjo Breeding Facility, Andasibe – First Time at the Facility.

Being my first proper day in Madagascar, I was ecstatic and with all the excitement I was up ready to go at 6.30am hours earlier than was needed! Devin came to meet me for us to walk together on my first day, so I could get my bearings and know my way around the village and road towards the facility.

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I remember walking through the town and noticing every little detail around me, from the smell to the sights that surrounded me but the one obvious thing was that I was the new guy in town. Let’s just say that I learnt the common Malagasy greeting incredibly quickly, I had to say it to everyone, out of politeness but also because I wanted to be friendly! On our way out of the edge of town, on the main road that takes you towards the National Parks, I noticed an extremely well preserved (Almost new-like) building with big capital letters on the sides of it stating “ANDASIBE”. I asked Devin exactly what the place was and why it appeared abandoned when it looked so new, well it turns out I actually knew this building, as a hotel from reading about Sir David Attenborough’s adventures in the 60’s. This was the Andasibe Train Station Hotel, and it had accommodated quite a few celebrities including Gerald Durrell, Prince Phillip and of course Sir David. Devin reminded me that the corner (directly where a restaurant now sits – where I eat most the time) as Sir David described, had rainforest right outside his window with Diadem Sifaka amongst the trees, a disturbing thought considering that the rainforest had disappeared so much since then.

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After a 45 minute walk and a struggling uphill climb to the facility, which just proved how unfit I had became, we arrived at the Mitsinjo Breeding Facility, something I was eagerly waiting to see for well over a year. The first thing you notice about the building, once you open the gate, is the vast amount of logos from various organisations across the world that support the project, it truly was an impressive and fantastic sight to see, all except on of the logos (which I will explain later on).

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We entered and already I was impressed with the protocols and procedures we had to go through before even entering the facility! Provided for the staff members, volunteers, PhD students and Researchers, are either Foam Crocs or Wellington Boots that are just for use within the facility main building. Your clothes must be clean before you are allowed to enter also, so no patches of mud (Luckily, I fully disinfected my clothes prior to leaving the UK using Virkon and Anigene) just incase a lethal pathogen maybe present upon your person. I was extremely excited and full of anticipation to actually just get in and view the facility and the legendary and highly important wild caught founders of the Golden Mantella (Mantella aurantiaca) species.

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As I entered finally, straight away I was presented with a vast quantity of Fruit Fly (‘SiSi’ in Malagasy), Spring-tail, Tropical Woodlice, and Crickets cultures, incredibly overwhelming considering the amount I am normally used to. It was impressive, to say the very least!

Justin Claude Rakotoarisoa looking after some of the F1 generation wards within the facility. © 2015 - Joshua Ralph - All Rights Reserved.
Justin Claude Rakotoarisoa looking after some of the F1 generation wards within the facility. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.

Then we approached a set of heavy wooden doors, allowing access to the frog research and collection room, which is home to over 800 specimens, of 8 different species within the Conservation and Husbandry Research programmes. The obvious and main focus of the facility though is the famous and entirely beautiful Golden Mantella (Mantella aurantiaca) specimens, classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List. However, what makes these particular specimens so important is not as well known of to the outside world, which goes back to one of the logos upon the wall of supporters. The wild caught founders were once found in the Ambatovy locality within the North-western part of the Torotorofotsy Wetland reserve, however a few years previous, it was discovered that this particular area had a vast amount of Nickel within it. So the Ambatovy Nickel Mining Company got permission to destroy the habitats as long as they contributed and removed the specimens of Mantella aurantiaca from the remaining four ponds and give them to Association Mitsinjo.

One of the original Wild Caught founding specimens from the Ambatovy locality of the Torotorofotsy, now found only at the Mitsinjo Conservation Facility. © 2015 - Joshua Ralph - All Rights Reserved.
One of the original Wild Caught founding specimens from the Ambatovy locality of the Torotorofotsy, now found only at the Mitsinjo Conservation Facility. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.

Just like that, the Ambatovy locality was wiped out and declared extinct in the wild (hopefully this may make you think about where the nickel in some of your purchases comes from), these beautiful and remarkable specimens were the last of their kind from the area they should be within.

Thank you for reading, to be continued…

Joshua Ralph
(MantellaMan)

Malagasy Nature Photographs – Mitsinjo Forest Reserve & Parc a Orchidees (Night) 2

Hi Everyone,

Welcome back, in this photograph blog entry, I will be in the Mitsinjo Forest Reserve (Analamazaotra Forest Station) and the Parc a Orchidees (Orchid Park) for a night hike (which would have been the first time I entered the forest at night!

I came across a great amount for my first night of hiking in the rainforest and some of these species such as the Lowland Streaked Tenrec (Hemicentetes semispinosus) and the Short-horned Elephant Chameleon (Calumma brevicorne) I was simply dying to see after reading about them and working with them for so long!

The amount of species I saw this night were as follows (Not all I managed to photograph unfortunately, I am not that great at photography!):

Mammals (Mammalia): 3
Amphibians (Amphibia): 7
Reptiles (Reptilia): 4
Invertebrates (Arthropoda): 9

Five minutes into the walk and BAM! we come across a Lowland Streaked Tenrec (Hemicentetes semispinosus) male specimen. © 2015 - Joshua Ralph - All Rights Reserved
Five minutes into the walk and BAM! we come across a Lowland Streaked Tenrec (Hemicentetes semispinosus) male specimen. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved
Lowland Streaked Tenrec (Hemicentetes semispinosus) male specimen. © 2015 - Joshua Ralph - All Rights Reserved.
Lowland Streaked Tenrec (Hemicentetes semispinosus) male specimen. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
These yellow quils are the Tenrecs main method of communication, using what is known as 'Stridulation' where they will rub them together to create a sound that can be hear by other specimens. © 2015 - Joshua Ralph - All Rights Reserved.
These yellow quils are the Tenrecs main method of communication, using what is known as ‘Stridulation’ where they will rub them together to create a sound that can be hear by other specimens. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
Malagasy Golden Orb Weaver (Nephila inaurata madagascariensis) specimen. © 2015 - Joshua Ralph - All Rights Reserved.
Malagasy Golden Orb Weaver (Nephila inaurata madagascariensis) specimen. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
Madagascan Tree Boa (Sanzinia madagascariensis) adult specimen. © 2015 - Joshua Ralph - All Rights Reserved.
Madagascan Tree Boa (Sanzinia madagascariensis) adult specimen. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
Madagascan Tree Boa (Sanzinia madagascariensis) adult specimen. © 2015 - Joshua Ralph - All Rights Reserved.
Madagascan Tree Boa (Sanzinia madagascariensis) adult specimen. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
Perinet Stripped Chameleon (Calumma gastrotaenia) female full of eggs. © 2015 - Joshua Ralph - All Rights Reserved.
Perinet Stripped Chameleon (Calumma gastrotaenia) female full of eggs. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
Perinet Stripped Chameleon (Calumma gastrotaenia) female. © 2015 - Joshua Ralph - All Rights Reserved.
Perinet Stripped Chameleon (Calumma gastrotaenia) female. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
Perinet Stripped Chameleon (Calumma gastrotaenia) female full of eggs. © 2015 - Joshua Ralph - All Rights Reserved.
Perinet Stripped Chameleon (Calumma gastrotaenia) female full of eggs. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
Pygmy Leaf Chameleon (Brookesia superciliaris) female specimen, the male is slightly further up the small tree. © 2015 - Joshua Ralph - All Rights Reserved.
Pygmy Leaf Chameleon (Brookesia superciliaris) female specimen, the male is slightly further up the small tree. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
Pygmy Leaf Chameleon (Brookesia superciliaris) male specimen. © 2015 - Joshua Ralph - All Rights Reserved.
Pygmy Leaf Chameleon (Brookesia superciliaris) male specimen. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
Grandidier's Giant Frog (Mantidactylus grandidieri) male specimen that we watched calling prior to this photograph. © 2015 - Joshua Ralph - All Rights Reserved.
Grandidier’s Giant Frog (Mantidactylus grandidieri) male specimen that we watched calling prior to this photograph. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
Böhmei's Bright-eyed Frog (Boophis boehmei) male specimen, on his calling platform. © 2015 - Joshua Ralph - All Rights Reserved.
Böhmei’s Bright-eyed Frog (Boophis boehmei) male specimen, on his calling platform. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
Madagascan Bright-eyed Frog (Boophis madagascariensis) male specimen. © 2015 - Joshua Ralph - All Rights Reserved.
Madagascan Bright-eyed Frog (Boophis madagascariensis) male specimen. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
Madagascan Bright-eyed Frog (Boophis madagascariensis) male specimen. © 2015 - Joshua Ralph - All Rights Reserved.
Madagascan Bright-eyed Frog (Boophis madagascariensis) male specimen. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
Unknown Butterfly species, a very common occurance with a lot of Madagascar's Arthropoda. © 2015 - Joshua Ralph - All Rights Reserved.
Unknown Butterfly species, a very common occurance with a lot of Madagascar’s Arthropoda. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
Hairy-eared Mouse Lemur (Allocebus trichotis) emerging from its nest, a rare sight to see in the wild. © 2015 - Joshua Ralph - All Rights Reserved.
Hairy-eared Mouse Lemur (Allocebus trichotis) emerging from its nest, a rare sight to see in the wild. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
Hairy-eared Mouse Lemur (Allocebus trichotis) emerging from its nest, a rare sight to see in the wild. © 2015 - Joshua Ralph - All Rights Reserved.
Hairy-eared Mouse Lemur (Allocebus trichotis) emerging from its nest, a rare sight to see in the wild. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
Madagascan Canary Frog (Aglyptodactylus madagascariensis) female specimen. © 2015 - Joshua Ralph - All Rights Reserved.
Madagascan Canary Frog (Aglyptodactylus madagascariensis) female specimen. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
Unknown Butterfly species, a little pattern forming isn't there? © 2015 - Joshua Ralph - All Rights Reserved.
Unknown Butterfly species, a little pattern forming isn’t there? © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
Short-horned Elephant Chameleon (Calumma brevicorne) female specimen asleep in a tree (or was). © 2015 - Joshua Ralph - All Rights Reserved.
Short-horned Elephant Chameleon (Calumma brevicorne) female specimen asleep in a tree (or was). © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
Short-horned Elephant Chameleon (Calumma brevicorne) female specimen. © 2015 - Joshua Ralph - All Rights Reserved.
Short-horned Elephant Chameleon (Calumma brevicorne) female specimen. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
Dead-leaf Moth (Known sp.) amazing camouflage, couldnt see it at first! © 2015 - Joshua Ralph - All Rights Reserved.
Dead-leaf Moth (Known sp.) amazing camouflage, couldnt see it at first! © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
Ying & Yang Moth (Unknown sp.) I must admit, the markings are so beautiful and cryptic! © 2015 - Joshua Ralph - All Rights Reserved.
Ying & Yang Moth (Unknown sp.) I must admit, the markings are so beautiful and cryptic! © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
Goodman's Mouse Lemur (Microcebus lehilahytsara) specimen, I was literally only 4ft away from this. © 2015 - Joshua Ralph - All Rights Reserved.
Goodman’s Mouse Lemur (Microcebus lehilahytsara) specimen, I was literally only 4ft away from this. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.
Goodman's Mouse Lemur (Microcebus lehilahytsara) specimen, I was literally only 4ft away from this. © 2015 - Joshua Ralph - All Rights Reserved.
Goodman’s Mouse Lemur (Microcebus lehilahytsara) specimen, I was literally only 4ft away from this. © 2015 – Joshua Ralph – All Rights Reserved.

Anyway, that’s your lot for tonight, if you are wondering why these entries are so short and are not containing very much information, it is because I will write about these animals properly, within more in-depth blog posts in the future.

Hope you enjoyed these photographs, please give me a like, recommendation or a share!

Joshua Ralph
(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.
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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.