There are currently 103 recognised Lemur species on the island, all of which are believed to have evolved from a single colonising ancestor, who reached isolated Madagascar some 50million years ago! Sadly however, recent assessments made by the IUCN now show that the Lemurs are now the most endangered group of vertebrates in the world, with 94 species being classified as threatened with extinction! However, Lemurs are not the only group of animals in need of help! The Amphibian fauna of Madagascar is considered to be one of the greatest on Earth, with 238 recognised species and with another 182 candidate species currently awaiting classification! Madagascar has sadly already lost over 90% of its original forest cover though, and this has put increased pressure on all of the endangered species who live here.
Madagascar is also the centre of diversity for Chameleons, with almost half of this old world fauna being found exclusively on the island! Including both the largest, and smallest species in the world! In Madagascar, there are weird, unique and wonderful forms of life everywhere that you look, and the more you discover about each of them, the more amazing they become! This sentiment was summed up perfectly by the 18th century French doctor and explorer, Joseph Philibert Commerson in a letter to his tutor in Paris:
"Of Madagascar I can announce to naturalists that this is truly their promised land. Here nature seems to have created a special sanctuary whither she seems to have withdrawn to experiment with designs different from any she has created elsewhere. At every step, one meets more remarkable and marvellous forms of life"
Despite these tantalising early accounts, Madagascar is still an island shrouded in mystery, and remains relatively un-studied to this day! Myths and legends abound in Madagascar, and remain deeply embedded in the collective imagination, adding to the sense of magic surrounding the island!