Madagascar 2012: Lemurs and Langahas

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Tom
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Madagascar 2012: Lemurs and Langahas

Post by Tom »

This summer I spent two months in Madagascar both generally herping and conducting some fieldwork. Apologies for the lack of story-telling, this is the second time I've created this post :lol:

After reaching the cold and rainy capital of Antananarivo (Tana), we spent a day in the city making plans before heading North to Diego Suarez. There we visited the old WWII naval base near the village of Ramena and, while tropic birds and Malagasy kestrels circled above we also managed to turn up a few non-avian reptiles:

Phelsuma dubia

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Mimophis mahafalensis (x4)

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As found:

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In addition to a big Phelsuma madagascariensis, we noted numerous Panther Chameleon Furcifer pardalis tracks crossing the sand. Just as we were beginning to lose hope on the return walk, this large male was waiting for around a corner:

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From the seaside village, we headed up into the mountains towards the town of Joffreville and the national park it resides beside; Montagne D’Ambre. Here, we were lucky enough to stumble across the beautiful Chez Vanina and the wonderful host Mama Be (‘Big Mamma’). We immediately headed up into the park but resented the idea of being forced to hire a guide. This resentment was misplaced, however, as it so happens we were given the same guys Glaw and Vences, and Nussbaum and Raxworthy often use (they also mentioned a Mr. Bill Love). Angelin and Angeluc Razafimanantsoa can spot a sleeping Uroplatus sikorae from 20 feet away, it’s unreal. Paradise flycatchers hunted around our heads and we also glimpsed the endemic Amber Mountain rock thrush, however, it was the 5 Brookesia tuberculata that were the real prizes, along with all the other species of chameleon we saw in the area. Night walks in the park are forbidden, but on the road up we managed to find (other than chameleons and a used tampon) Uroplatus ebenaui (giant form) and U. sikorae, including a courting pair.

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Where's the U. sikorae?

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Calumma ambreense

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Calumma amber

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Furcifer boettgeri male

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Furcifer petteri

Female

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Male

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Furcifer oustaleti

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Brookesia tuberculata – almost identical to B. minima, but endemic to the Amber Mountain

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Female left, male on the right – females are supposedly rare, as this species has biased sex ratio.

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From Joffreville, we headed down to the Diego Suarez taxi-brousse ‘station’ (these are essentially small overloaded vans packed with seats, too many people and often livestock and meat – hence why all my belongings now smell of fish). On the ride down, we saw several panther chameleons crossing the road, including some still writhing having sadly been hit by cars. For some reason it seemed even more tragic than seeing a hit snake. A live Malagasy Giant hognose (Leioheterodon madagascariensis) and a Blonde hognose (L. modestus) were also seen crossing the road.

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From the station, we endured the 24-hour taxi-brousse journey that, thanks to a collapsed bridge, included a river crossing with all my gear and rapid negotiations with a man driving a bizarre pasta-delivery van to take us the rest of the way to Majunga. While perched on a box of linguini, we were told to pretend to be the driver’s friends and not tourists, as to chauffeur the latter is illegal without a special license and there are countless police and army roadblocks. It seems since my last visit four years ago, the coup de tête and resulting former-DJ president has allowed corruption to flourish. Indeed, the taxi-brousse drivers would routinely hand out small bribes (quite what for, I’m uncertain, but I guess as protection against being inconvenienced more than anything) to every military or police roadblock they passed. Furthermore, while extending our VISA in Majunga various officials of different levels requested ‘presents’ and ‘dollar’ for ‘drinks’ in order to make the process run more smoothly for the vazahas, all the while an ironic anti-corruption poster barely clung to the peeling wallpaper. We ended up having our VISA extension recorded in a book that hadn’t been used for over 21 years.

Broken bridge:

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We then spent six weeks in a dry forest similar to Ankarafantsika. The most common herptile species by far would be Zonosaurus laticaudatus, Oplurus cuvieri, O. cyclurus, Trachylepis gravenhorsii, T. elegans, M. mahafalensis and Phelsuma kochi. Nonetheless, the forest still proved extremely diverse. I failed to adequately photograph the Rhamphotyphlops braminus, Phelsuma laticauda, P. lineata, P. abboti and P. dubia.

Various species of Geckolepis were present, though often only distinguishable by their chin scalation. Due to their habit of violently flaying themselves upon capture, few were inspected closely.

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Uroplatus ebenaui

Very variable leaf mimic, the dwarf form pictured here is slightly dimorphic with males possessing more serrated tails and white spots beneath the eyes.

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Uroplatus guentheri

Occasionally exhibiting a bizarre jump-and-roll dive when attempting an escape, this twig mimic is one of the rarest leaf-tails in the wild, with the second ever being found in the 1980s.

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Uroplatus henkeli

A big tree crocodile that shrieks when you catch it; Malagasy tradition requires that you scream back.

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Voeltzkowia mira tracks were apparently common in sandy areas, but they are near impossible to catch. Not yet pictured in the Glaw and Vences bible.

Making tracks

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Oplurus cuvieri and O. cyclurus are distinguishable by their tail scalation, and both were present. They are very similar to collared lizards.

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Paroedura stumpffi was generally found on the forest floor, though a young animal was also found apparently competing with Hemidactylus mercatorius and H. frenatus around the electric lights.

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Furcifer angeli

Male

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Female

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Furcifer oustaleti

Large males are capable or a formidable roar and eat everything from berries to small birds.

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Sanzinia madagascariensis – usually found due to their white belly gleaming amongst tree branches as they hunted mouse lemurs.

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Acrantophis madagascariensis - locally called ‘do’ – were less commonly seen than the tree boas, though this may be a product of their excellent camouflage. Some 2m+ individuals were seen. It is a fady (taboo) for Malagasy people to touch or harm snakes and they have a mixture of absolute fear and respect for them. Unfortunately, these beliefs seem to be being eroded and the tourist markets in Tana are loaded with their skins, along with Nile crocodile remains. There is a ban on exporting crocodile goods, however it continues apparently due to a loophole that allows non-Malagasy crocodile skins to be exported. Therefore, these skins are, in theory, imported from the mainland and processed in Madagascar. Though I’m not sure if anyone actually believes that this is what is actually happening.

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Madagascarophis colubrinus was certainly the most common nocturnal snake, with multiple animals living in camp. It is one of the few Malagasy snakes that will relatively readily bite.

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Stenophis variabilis and S. pseudogranuliceps were both encountered. A bizarre genus, where the latter gives birth to live young, yet the former lays eggs. They produce an awfully smelling musk.

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This Heteroliodon sp. was found a long way from any other records, and its scale counts match none of the 3 known species.

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Liophidium torquatum and L. vaillanti were occasionally encountered. Very little is known about the latter.

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Dromicodryas bernieri and D. quadrilineatus are extremely fast racer-type snakes.

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Ithycyphus miniatus is believed to dangle straight from a tree until an unsuspecting person should walk beneath it, at which point it drops in order to stab and kill its victim, hence the blood-stained tail end. Despite this unpleasant habit, they’re rather beautiful snakes.

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L. madagascariensis (also known as the Menarana) and L. modestus. The Giant hognose would often spread a hood, hiss and, if captured, repeatedly lunge with a gaping mouth. When I intercepted a snake and its hole, it proceeded to chase me head up and mouth open, attempting to bluff me out the way. The Blonde hognose is far more timid.

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Langaha madagascariensis exhibits perhaps one of the most extreme examples of sexual dimorphism in snakes. Slender bodies and silly noses.

Female

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Male

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Langaha pseudoalluadi is known from approximately ten specimens, including the two we encountered.

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Heterixalus luteostriatus and H. tricolor

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Scaphiophryne aff. calcarata

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Pelomedusa subrufa and Pelusios castanoides were found.

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Crocodylus niloticus

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Shrew tenrec

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Mouse lemur

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Scorpion

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Souimanga Sunbird

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Pygmy Kingfisher

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African Spoonbills

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After six weeks in a tent, I decided to relax on the beaches of islands surrounding Nosy Be. It couldn't last though, and I ended up poking around the forest for my last Malagasy herps.

P. laticauda making itself a pest at breakfast

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P. abboti

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Nosy Komba F. pardalis

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Hope you enjoyed.

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Hunter-MX
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Re: Madagascar 2012: Lemurs and Langahas

Post by Hunter-MX »

Thank you so much for re-upping this!

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Joshua Jones
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Re: Madagascar 2012: Lemurs and Langahas

Post by Joshua Jones »

Excellent. :thumb:

Thanks for posting the coolest herping trip I've read about for awhile. :shock: :D

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Tonia Graves
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Re: Madagascar 2012: Lemurs and Langahas

Post by Tonia Graves »

What an awesome trip! Thanks for taking the time to re-do the post!

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Nir
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Re: Madagascar 2012: Lemurs and Langahas

Post by Nir »

Damn, now I really want to visit Madagasgar!

Great photography! Great post, amazing diversity!

Thanks

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Nshepard
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Re: Madagascar 2012: Lemurs and Langahas

Post by Nshepard »

Hot [email protected], this post is phenomenal! Everything you posted is exceptional!

Yuri Kaverkin
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Re: Madagascar 2012: Lemurs and Langahas

Post by Yuri Kaverkin »

Great post and very very nice pics. Thanks for sharing.
Just one notice : the small species of Uroplatus is not U.ebenaui but U.finiavana and "U.henkeli" is undescribed species more known as "Diego henkeli" in hobby. They are little bit smaller then regular U.henkeli from Nosy Be.

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Martti Niskanen
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Re: Madagascar 2012: Lemurs and Langahas

Post by Martti Niskanen »

Wow. That's an amazing post.

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Dr. Dark
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Re: Madagascar 2012: Lemurs and Langahas

Post by Dr. Dark »

Absolutely INCREDIBLE post!

Bold Cub
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Re: Madagascar 2012: Lemurs and Langahas

Post by Bold Cub »

AWESOME, INCREDIBLE, BEAUTIFUL!!!!! I am blown away. Blooowwwwwnnnn awaaayyyyy!

jimoo742
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Re: Madagascar 2012: Lemurs and Langahas

Post by jimoo742 »

holy heck
thanks for reminding me why this island is on my before i die list

Tom
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Re: Madagascar 2012: Lemurs and Langahas

Post by Tom »

Yuri Kaverkin wrote:Great post and very very nice pics. Thanks for sharing.
Just one notice : the small species of Uroplatus is not U.ebenaui but U.finiavana and "U.henkeli" is undescribed species more known as "Diego henkeli" in hobby. They are little bit smaller then regular U.henkeli from Nosy Be.
Thanks for the heads up. If it is U. finiavana then that's a very significant range extension, and a very different habitat (plus I think the morphometrics are off). The whole ebenaui group is a mess, so for now I'll leave them as U. ebenaui. I'd be very interested in any information you have in terms of distribution for both the U. henkeli variants. We were far closer to Nosy Be than Diego.

Yuri Kaverkin
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Re: Madagascar 2012: Lemurs and Langahas

Post by Yuri Kaverkin »

Thhis is article Zootaxa 3022: 39–57 (2011)

A new leaf tailed gecko species from northern Madagascar
with a preliminary assessment of molecular and morphological
variability in the Uroplatus ebenaui group

FANOMEZANA,EDWARD, CROTTINI, RANDRIANIAINA, GLAW & VENCES

I have keep U. finiavana and can say that they looking very same with specimen on your pictures.
As I know few U.henkeli look like form are known in hobby. The "true" U.henkeli are from Nosy Be.. Also little bit smaller form live on North Madagascar, including Diego Suarez area . Except size differences they have differences in tongue tip color. Small U. aff. henkeli have no black tip of tounge and thear axilla are yellowish. Nosy Be U.henkeli allways have different eye color at day and night. At night time thear eye color have change to rediish/orange/. Several years ago I have got unusual "henkeli type" specimen which was much bigger (arownd 280-290mm TL)then Nosy Be specimen (regular total lenght is 250-260mm.). Importer said that this form came from north\ west part of mainland. So maybe the specimen on your pictures are same "giants" as they are from more west part.
Hope you understend my worse english :)
I have kept all three forms and can say that differences are more visible when you see them together/

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DaveR
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Re: Madagascar 2012: Lemurs and Langahas

Post by DaveR »

WOWSA! Amazing animals. Beautiful Sanzinia...and that Acrantophis was the biggest I've ever seen.

danh
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Re: Madagascar 2012: Lemurs and Langahas

Post by danh »

That is a beautiful post and some amazing animals... Thanks for posting!

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Hans Breuer (twoton)
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Re: Madagascar 2012: Lemurs and Langahas

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) »

Unbelievable animals, excellent photography. Your post makes Borneo look like Cleveland ...

What's with the funky snake noses? What are they for?

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kcmatt
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Re: Madagascar 2012: Lemurs and Langahas

Post by kcmatt »

Amazing. Langaha pseudoalluadi takes the cake but all kinds of amazing herps here. I've never seen a Madagascar post with such serpent diversity, but loved the lizards just as much. Thanks for enduring a re-post.

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Warren
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Re: Madagascar 2012: Lemurs and Langahas

Post by Warren »

This is why I come here. Thank you.

Kfen
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Re: Madagascar 2012: Lemurs and Langahas

Post by Kfen »

Absolutely spectacular!!! Wonderful finds and even better photos! A couple friends and I just started bouncing around the idea of a Madagascar trip. This post has enlightened me to a bunch of snake species I never knew existed and has me more interested in a trip there. I have a couple questions for you.

Tortoises are one of reasons I would want to go to Madagascar, did you find any tortoises and do you have any pics?

How hard is it to get around? I have heard that you can't just rent a car, that you need a driver.

And just curious, what kind of fieldwork were you conducting?
Thanks

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Kevin McRae
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Re: Madagascar 2012: Lemurs and Langahas

Post by Kevin McRae »

I love the Phelsuma and Uroplatus! I'd love to make it to Madagascar just for the geckos. The chameleons and lemurs were amazing as well!

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moloch
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Re: Madagascar 2012: Lemurs and Langahas

Post by moloch »

What a fantastic post! I really enjoyed the diversity of animals that you found and photographed. Madagascar looks to be an incredible place with so many strange plants and animals.

Regards,
David

Tom
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Re: Madagascar 2012: Lemurs and Langahas

Post by Tom »

Hans Breuer (twoton) wrote:Unbelievable animals, excellent photography. Your post makes Borneo look like Cleveland ...

What's with the funky snake noses? What are they for?
I don't think anyone really knows, though it seems the only obvious function would be to break up the snake's outline, especially considering how cryptic the rest of their body pattern is. The fact that they are dimorphic also implies some sort of sexual selection at work.

As for Borneo, you have a PM.
Kfen wrote:Absolutely spectacular!!! Wonderful finds and even better photos! A couple friends and I just started bouncing around the idea of a Madagascar trip. This post has enlightened me to a bunch of snake species I never knew existed and has me more interested in a trip there. I have a couple questions for you.

Tortoises are one of reasons I would want to go to Madagascar, did you find any tortoises and do you have any pics?

How hard is it to get around? I have heard that you can't just rent a car, that you need a driver.

And just curious, what kind of fieldwork were you conducting?
Thanks
I'm more of a squamate fan, so didn't visit any areas that are particularly good for tortoises. I did however visit the Durrell Tortoise Breeding Facility at Ankarafantsika a few years ago, which is worth a visit if you're in the area. Bill Love may be a good person to ask, and the Glaw and Vences guide is very good (/essential).

Renting a car would probably be painful due to the roadblocks and bribes. It's hard to bargain with a policeman for your driving license when he has a gun and you're in the middle of nowhere.

There are lots of super-expensive tours you can pre-book but I would recommend just using the local taxi-brousses (Try to use KofMad when you can. You'll thank me when you try one if their competitors!) and the occasional internal flight, and organising everything in-country. The only exception would be to get to the Masoala pensinsula/Maroantsetra/Nosy Mangabe, where the weekly flights get booked up well in advance, and overland is almost impossible or at least very time consuming.

A typical journey (i.e. Majunga to Diego Suarez and then Montagne D'Ambre, approximately 24 hour van ride plus 45 minute taxi journey) would consist of going to the taxi-brousse station the day before (by normal taxi) and booking your seats - behind the driver is best. Sometimes they want a deposit, but never pay it all. Then once you're crammed into the van the next day, and after 3 hours of waiting around and repacking baggage/goats/mopeds on top, you'll leave. Over the next few hours the driver will stop for food, or, with the less reputable companies, flat tires and a beer or 3. The next day, you arrive, grab your stuff and a taxi and head to Joffreville and the park.

As long as you're relatively laid back and have a sense of humour about it, then it's quite fun. Don't expect a tight schedule and go for at least 3 weeks.

I've never had a problem booking accommodation or transport the day before. Speaking even a minimal amount of French also helps a lot, and barter for everything. The Bradt travel guide is also essential reading. It's actually relatively easy to get around once you're there.

Hope that helps.

With regards to my research, I was taking data for my dissertation on the giant hognoses, along with general biodiversity monitoring,

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MattSullivan
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Re: Madagascar 2012: Lemurs and Langahas

Post by MattSullivan »

WOW! awesome finds and shots. my favorite is the 4th shot of the fantastic leaf tailed gecko. madagascar is now on my list

Yuri Kaverkin
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Re: Madagascar 2012: Lemurs and Langahas

Post by Yuri Kaverkin »

Tom wrote:
Yuri Kaverkin wrote:Great post and very very nice pics. Thanks for sharing.
Just one notice : the small species of Uroplatus is not U.ebenaui but U.finiavana and "U.henkeli" is undescribed species more known as "Diego henkeli" in hobby. They are little bit smaller then regular U.henkeli from Nosy Be.
Thanks for the heads up. If it is U. finiavana then that's a very significant range extension, and a very different habitat (plus I think the morphometrics are off). The whole ebenaui group is a mess, so for now I'll leave them as U. ebenaui. I'd be very interested in any information you have in terms of distribution for both the U. henkeli variants. We were far closer to Nosy Be than Diego.
OOoopppsss!!! I'm really sorry :) but it seems that I was wrong and small species of Uroplatus are really U.ebenaui (or very similar mainland form) but not U.finiavana. I got few specimen from Forret d'Ambre and they looking absolutelly same with specimen on your picture. It seems that range of this form are much bigger then I new . Thanks again for sharing.

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