Elephant birds once lived in Madagascar around 1000-1200 CE before they went extinct from human-related activities in around the 17th Century. People think that they were related to ostriches, but they had more in common with kiwi. Humans eradicated this species by hunting them and eating their eggs. They also used the elephant bird eggshells as bowls.
They were giant flightless birds that stood about 10 feet tall and weighed close to 1,600 pounds. Experts have had a hard time determining the diet of the elephant bird, but they believe it fed on vegetation like leaves, fruit, and shrubs.
Couas are mainly terrestrial birds that are closely related to the cuckoo. They enjoy walking along tree branches and are more recognizable by the bright skin they have around their eyes. There are ten different species of coua bird located in Madagascar.
They’re also known for having enormous feet for their size, which are great for walking on the ground of the dense forests they live in. Their third toe is actually reversible, which is common in all cuckoos. Four species of coua birds are found in the rainforests while the other six are in the dry forests, all around Madagascar.
It’s pretty apparent how the giraffe weevil bug got its name. However, it doesn’t use that long neck the same way giraffes do. The purpose of its long neck is to build nests and for winning in fights with other weevils. This unique insect is just under one inch long but is a tough opponent during a battle.
It’s the male that has a long neck, so it’s going to be territorial when there are other males around. Their breeding practices are weird too: the female will remove a single leaf, roll it up, and then lay a single egg inside it.
The giant-striped mongoose is giant… and striped. It’s also known as Grandidier’s mongoose. It lives in the southwestern parts of Madagascar, which consists of mostly deserts. This meat-eating mammal is one of the rarest carnivores in the entire world. The giant-striped mongoose is nocturnal and typically the most active during twilight.
It hunts at night, given that it’s nocturnal, and hides from the aggressive heat of the sun during the day by hiding in limestone holes. They’re very social animals and haven’t shown any aggression towards humans, even when they’re trapped. They mostly eat lizards and rodents but will resort to eating bugs.
The koala lemur is also an animal that was once native to Madagascar but went extinct. It was a “mega lemur” that measures at least five feet long, not including its tail. This extinct mammal exclusively dined on leaves and used a leaf-cropping method for foraging their meals.
It didn’t have the usual body shape that you’re used to seeing with a lemur, usually long and sleek. Instead, it was squatty, kind of like a koala. The form of its hands and feet didn’t make it conducive to walk around on all fours, so they were most likely tree-dwellers for all of their lives.
The beloved dugong dwells in the ocean waters around Madagascar. It is the only sea animal that is entirely herbivorous. Don’t mistake them for manatees; they look similar, but they have very different body structures and feast on different things. Dugongs are found in the waters of over 40 countries and territories in the Indo-West Pacific Ocean.
They were once mistaken for mermaids by sailors, though no one really knows how you can make that kind of mistake. Their life expectancy is about 70 years, but that has been shortened over the years and placed them on the endangered list.
The name whale shark may be misleading, but it is more of a shark than a whale. It is one of three shark species that are filter feeders. The most massive whale shark ever found was more than 60 feet long. The whale shark is the largest living vertebrate that is not a mammal.
It got the name “whale” for being generally docile and its large size. It can get as long as 33 feet, which dwarfs the basking shark, which can only get to about 20 feet long. Due to their gentle nature, diving and swimming with them have become a tourist attraction whenever one is spotted off the coast.
The bamboo lemur is exclusively found in Madagascar. They were first discovered on the island in 1851. These mammals closely resembled marmosets and were given the genus name Hapale, which comes from the Greek word for gentle.
They have short muzzles, round & hairy ears, and grey-brown fur. The bamboo lemur can reach lengths up to 18 inches with tails that are the same length or longer. These animals thrive in damp forests where plenty of bamboos grows. They typically are the most active right after dawn. Bamboo lemurs spend most of their time high in the trees, but will occasionally come down to the ground.
Also known as the babakoto, the indri is one of the largest lemur species in the world. Their bodies can reach up to 28 inches long, and they can weigh up to 21 pounds. The indri is distinguishable by its black and white fur coat. They are closely related to the sifaka and mostly stay active during the day.
This mammal stays upright when climbing or clinging to a tree branch. They live in small clusters and move through forest canopies together. Indris are herbivorous, feeding mostly on leaves, flowers, seeds, and fruits. These animals communicate with one another by roaring, singing, and making other unique vocalizations.
Another unique animal found on Madagascar of the Pteropus, also known as the flying fox. This animal is a type of megabat that is one of the biggest species in the world. They reside mostly in tropical climates, making Madagascar the perfect habitat for these giant creatures.
Flying foxes are nocturnal and use a keen sense of smell to search for food and water. They mostly feed on plants and fruit, but will occasionally eat insects. Unlike most bats, flying foxes are unable to use echolocation to navigate their surroundings. Flying foxes live a long time, up to 15 years. In captivity, they have been known to live for almost 30 years.
The fanaloka is another animal endemic to the island of Madagascar. This mammal is also known as a jabady or striped civet. They are only about 20 inches long and can weigh up to 5 pounds. Fanaloka have a short coat that is grey and beige with dark horizontal stripes that run from their head to their tail.
Fanalokas are nocturnal and feed on bird eggs, insects, small vertebrates, and even aquatic animals. After the fossa, the fanaloka is the second largest carnivore found on Madagascar. They have been classified as a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
We mentioned the coua before and told you that there were ten different species of this bird. One of these species is the blue coua. Like most of the animals on this list, this bird can only be found on the island of Madagascar.
These birds have a vibrant blue color with a unique blue oval surrounding their eyes that has no feathers. The blue coua has large feet with a third toe that is reversible. Its bulky body, short wings, and long tail make it easy to spot as it flies through the trees. This bird grows to be about 20 inches long and weighs just a few ounces.
The Nile crocodile is a giant reptile that resides in freshwater habitats in Africa. This species can be found in 26 countries around the world. It’s mostly found in sub-Saharan Africa and lives in marshlands, lakes, and rivers. You will rarely find a Nile crocodile in saltwater areas.
The average adult male Nile crocodile is nearly 17 feet long and weighs between 500 and 1,650 pounds. The Nile crocodile is known as Africa’s largest freshwater predator and quite possibly the second largest reptile in the world, after the saltwater crocodile. These creatures are notable for their thick, scaly skin that acts like body armor.
Also known as Phelsuma, the day gecko is a small lizard found in Madagascar. These tiny reptiles are considered severely endangered and can be regarded as a threat to individual species. Unlike most geckos, these reptiles are active mostly during the day.
They have round pupils and a transparent plate covering their eyes. Day geckos use their tongues to clean their eyes and keep them moist. You can find day geckos in blue, green, and red colors. Many reptile enthusiasts keep day geckos as pets. They are small, reaching between 2 and 12 inches in length. Small day gecko species live around 10 years, but some in captivity can live for more than 20 years.
Commonly referred to as the Malagasy leaf-nosed snake, the spear-nosed snake is another animal that is found only in Madagascar. This snake is extremely cryptic and hard to find. It dwells mostly in dry deciduous forests as well as rain forests.
The spear-nosed snake is typically found in vegetation that is around six to seven feet off the ground. They are small snakes, only reaching about three and a half feet in length. Male spear-nosed snakes have a brown body with a yellow belly. Female snakes have mottles grey bodies and leaf-shaped snouts. Being bit by a spear-nosed snake will cause severe pain in a human, but it’s not fatal.