Below you can find a complete list of Malagasy animals. We currently track 111 animals in Madagascar and are adding more every day!
The island of Madagascar harbors one of the most unique ecosystems on the planet. Anchored off the eastern coast of Africa, it is the world’s fourth-largest island – nearly reaching the same size as Texas – with about 3,000 miles of coastline. The island is home to abundant rainforests, dry forests, deserts, and coastal reefs, which incubate a rich diversity of wildlife. Isolated from the mainland, about 90% of the island’s plant and animal species are native to the island and found nowhere else in the world. This has earned it the designation of a biodiversity hotspot. However, much of this rich biodiversity is being lost to human activity.
The Official National Animals of Madagascar
The two national animals of Madagascar are the zebu and the ring-tailed lemur. The lemur is a type of long-limbed arboreal primate found exclusive on the island, while the zebu is a subspecies of cattle originating from India and specifically adapted to endure hotter and drier climates. Just like a camel, its hump can store nutrients for when food is scarce. The zebu basically fulfills the same role as the taurine cattle elsewhere in the world. As a source of meat and milk, it has been a lynchpin of the local economy for thousands of years. This has given the zebu an important status in Madagascar society.
Where to Find the Top Wild Animals in Madagascar
The best place to discover Madagascar’s rich natural wildlife is the many national parks and protected areas spread across the country. The largest destination is the Masoala National Park in the northeast. It contains more than 900 square miles of rainforests, marshes, mangroves, and flooded forests, where you can find a variety of different lemurs, geckos, frogs, and birds. Other important parks include the Andasibe-Mantadia National Park in the east, the sandstone landscape of Isalo National Park in the southwest, and the Amber Mountain Reserve near the northern tip.
The Most Dangerous Animals in Madagascar Today
Madagascar is home to many unique species, but surprisingly few of them are dangerous to humans. The island has almost no big carnivorous, aggressive snakes, or other highly toxic animals. Some species like the Malagasy tree boa may look intimidating but actually pose little threat to people. Here are a few you should look out for, however.
- Nile Crocodile – This species actually isn’t unique to Madagascar at all. It is found all over sub-Saharan Africa. But Madagascar does seem to have its own unique variation that lives in freshwater habitats and caves. Unfortunately, years of hunting have diminished the number of crocodiles on the island.
- Black Widow – Madagascar is home to its own unique species of black widow spider, whose venom may cause muscle pain, cramping, and sometimes seizures. Death is relatively rare though.
- Scorpions – Southwest Madagascar harbors a genus of large scorpions with a painful sting. Fortunately, it’s not often encountered by people.
- Golden Frogs – This is a genus of around 16 brightly colored poisonous frog species that goes by the name of Mantella. The golden frog isn’t really dangerous at all until a predator tries to eat it. Then it produces a toxin that can cause nausea and sickness, although it is not yet known to cause deaths.
Endangered Animals in Madagascar
The Madagascar ecosystem is in a perilous state. A great deal of the animal species, including many of the primates, are now threatened by human activity from slash and burn agricultural techniques, deforestation, and even illegal hunting. Here are a few of biodiversity jewels that are in danger of being lost:
- Ring-Tailed Lemur – The iconic ring-tailed lemur is perhaps the most well-known species native to Madagascar. It spends most of its life navigating the trees with its limbs, but unlike many other arboreal primates, the tail is not prehensile and merely provides balance and communication. As of 2017, it was estimated that only about 2,000 remain in the wild.
- Indri – Native to the island’s eastern rainforests, the Indri is one of the largest lemurs in the world. It is characterized by a short, rudimentary tail, big fuzzy ears, and black and white fur. Like other species of lemur, the Indri congregates together in a complex society. Its group vocalizations, which travel more than a mile in the air, sound something like an air horn.
- Aye-aye – This unusually named lemur has a unique arboreal hunting strategy. In order to search for food at night, the aye-aye will patiently tap on the barks of trees. Once it has found a hollow space, it will gnaw a hole in the wood with its forward-facing incisors and then pull out the grub with its long, spindly middle finger. The aye-age was thought to be extinct by the 1930s but was rediscovered a few decades later.
- Silky Sifaka – Also known as the angel of the forest for its white, silky fur, this lemur is one of the rarest mammals on the planet. Less than a thousand individuals remain in the wild.
- Ploughshare Tortoise – Home to a small stretch of territory in the northwest, the ploughshare tortoise can be identified by the unique growth rings projecting from the shell. Numbers have diminished quickly due to habitat loss and poaching (a single turtle can fetch around $200,000 on the exotic pet market). Only about a thousand of these animals remain.
- Humblot’s Heron – Named after the French naturalist Leon Humblot, this species of large, long-legged waterbirds are found along the north and west coasts of Madagascar. The loss of wetlands has caused this species to decline.
Malagasy Animals List
- Aye Aye
- Barn Owl
- Black Widow Spider
- Common Buzzard
- Elephant Shrew
- Glass Lizard
- Glow Worm
- Golden Oriole
- Green Bee-Eater
- Grey Mouse Lemur
- Guinea Fowl
- Honey Bee
- Leaf-Tailed Gecko
- Monitor Lizard
- Peregrine Falcon
- Radiated Tortoise
- River Turtle
- Stick Insect
- Tree Frog
- Water Buffalo
- Wolf Spider
Animals in Madagascar FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
What are the most common types of animals in Madagascar?
Madagascar is home to some 200 types of mammals, about a quarter of which are some species of lemur. There are also about 300 species of birds and more than 200 species of reptiles and amphibians each. The island is particularly rich in insects, however, with perhaps more than 100,000 known species.
Why is Madagascar’s wildlife so unique?
The island of Madagascar is a highly isolated, insular ecosystem. It was last attached to the African mainland some 150 million years ago. This isolation has allowed the wildlife to evolve semi-independently from the mainland. Some species have flown or swam across, but the harsh currents and long distances make it difficult.
What kinds of extinct species have been found in Madagascar?
From the fossil record, we know that Madagascar was once home to giant lemurs, pygmy hippos, giant tortoises, and elephant birds (essentially, large flightless birds that resemble an ostrich). Many of these species have gone extinct in the past 2,000 years with the arrival of people.