Endangered Species Handbook

Print PDF of Section or Chapter

Madagascar and other Islands

The Biological Wealth of an Impoverished Country: Reptiles and Amphibians

The distribution and diversity of Madagascar's reptiles and amphibians have not been carefully researched until the present. Chris Raxworthy, a British herpetologist, is in the process of carrying out the first methodical survey of the estimated 500 non-marine species, all of which are endemic (Holmes 1997). To date, at least 300 reptile and about 200 frog species have been identified (Tyson 2000). This would make it one of the top five countries in the world for diversity of reptiles and amphibians. The British Isles, by contrast, with about half the land area of Madagascar, have only six species of reptiles (Preston‑Mafham 1991). Even the ranges of newly described lizards and frogs will not be delineated precisely for some time. Some areas remain unexplored by herpetologists, and Raxworthy finds new species of lizards and frogs on each expedition into the tangled swamps and forest fragments. On one day when accompanied by a journalist, he and fellow researchers, including Malagasy biologists, found a bright green day gecko, a strikingly beautiful yellow-and-black snake, tiny frogs resembling lichens, a leaf-tailed gecko and 4-inch chameleons with upper legs the colors of Rainbow Trout, and lower legs like toothpicks (Holmes 1997). In a reserve on Nosy Be island, he and some Earthwatch Institute volunteers rediscovered a 10-inch green lizard that had been lost to science since the 1890s, when last collected (Tyson 2000). Raxworthy is doing inventories in reserves as part of an island-wide biodiversity program, and hopes that in some impenetrable area, giant tortoises long considered extinct will be rediscovered (Holmes 1997).

Page 1 (Threatened)
Page 2 (Tortoises and Turtles)
Page 3 (Lizards)
Page 4 (Snakes)
Page 5 (Amphibians)

Chapter Index
Animal Welfare Institute
    ©1983 Animal Welfare Institute