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The Lemurs of Madagascar

The Lemurs of Madagascar

Ring-tailed Lemur

Madagascar is known across the globe for its lemurs, which resemble a mix between a cat, a squirrel, and a dog. These species are only found on the island and exhibit a variety of fascinating habits, like singing like a whale (the Indri) and sashaying across the sand like a ballet dancer (the sifaka). More information on these interesting animals may be found here.

History of the lemur:

The primary kind of primate found across the world, and the Haplorhini suborder is absent from Madagascar (monkeys, chimps, gorillas, and Homo sapiens). Instead, the lemurs, an older group of primates, have stepped in to fill their need. Lemurs are members of the Strepsirhini suborder, like bushbabies, lorises, and pottos are nocturnal, insectivorous primates with a tiny bodies, long snouts, and big eyes, similar to the original lemurs. Lemurs have an intriguing evolutionary history, and Madagascar’s isolation is the sole reason they still exist today.

Madagascar was once part of the supercontinent Gondwanaland, which was connected to the African mainland until about 160 million years ago (formed of Africa, South America, Australia, Antarctica, India, and Madagascar). Madagascar migrated away from Africa when Gondwanaland disintegrated. Around 60 million years ago, the first lemur-like primates arrived in mainland Africa and moved over to Madagascar shortly after.

The island continued to move eastward, and by the time monkeys arrived 17-23 million years ago, Madagascar was completely cut off from the rest of the world. Monkeys, being extremely clever and adaptable primates, pushed the lemur lineage to extinction everywhere in the globe (a few Strepsirhines, such as bushbabies, lorises, and pottos, managed to cling on by preserving their nocturnal, solitary, and insectivorous characteristics).

Madagascar’s lemurs, cut off from the rest of the world’s evolutionary changes, spread into the huge island’s various niches with little competition or predation. Lemurs may now be found in almost every environment in Madagascar, and they share some of the social and behavioral traits of monkeys (i.e., forming social groups, eating fruit and vegetation, and being active during the day).

Upper primates did not arrive in Madagascar until some 2,000 years ago when they learned to cross the high seas and landed on boats. Humans immediately set to work on Madagascar’s lemurs, decreasing the island’s species count by at least 15%. The biggest species suffered the most, and the Indri, which would have been dwarfed by the gorilla-sized species previously prevalent on the island, is now the largest remaining lemur. Almost all lemur species are currently endangered, owing to habitat degradation (deforestation) and poaching.

Lemurs in the present day

There are around 110 species of lemurs in Madagascar, divided into five groups and 14 taxa, with sizes ranging from the 25-gram pygmy mouse lemur to the Indri. All of these species are native to Madagascar (although two lemur species have been brought to Comoros), giving Madagascar the distinction of having the most primate species (Brazil, which has 77 species but only two endemic genera and no endemic families, is second). And new species are continually being discovered: 39 new species were described between 2000 and 2008.

The importance of Madagascar’s lemurs on a global scale

According to Russell Mittermeier in The Eighth Continent, Madagascar «is only one of 92 countries with wild primate populations, but it is responsible for 21 percent (14 of 65) of all primate genera and 36 percent (five of 14) of all primate families, making it the single highest priority» for primate conservation.

Behavior

Non-scientists categorize lemurs according to whether they are active during the day or at night. Nocturnal lemurs are generally smaller and more solitary than diurnal lemurs. Brown lemurs and sifaka make grunts and curses, while mouse lemurs chirp and the Indri makes a strange, wailing call that has been compared as a mix between a police siren and the song of a humpback whale.

The Giant Otter

The Giant Otter

The Pantanal is a great place to spot the Giant Otter, located in South America, precisely in the Orinoco, Amazonas, and La Plata rivers. The Pantanal’s wetland is an excellent place to spot the Giant Otter in its natural habitat while experiencing the beautiful surroundings. However, there are many reasons to be amazed by this mammal apart from its size. For many travelers, seeing a glimpse of the Giant Otter in the wild can be the highlight of their trip. This powerful predator is the largest-sized otter globally; it can be six feet long and weigh 75 pounds. 

 

Family life

These adorable creatures have families constituted by two parents living in a monogamous relationship and their offspring. They will look after one another while hunting fish or burrowing their dens under boulders and ledges and in driftwood and tangles of vegetation. While river otters dig their burrows, cape clawless ones do not.

 

Otters are also very social and spend time grooming and communicating with one another. They use nine different sounds to communicate, each of them with a different meaning.

 

Baby otters

Baby otters are born ashore. Females give birth in their underground dens and deliver one to six young; these do not leave the shelter for a month. Baby otters grow fast though, after the ninth month, they can be the same size as their mother. 

 

Not great swimmers at first, but later

Contrary to what many might think, Giant Otters are not born good swimmers since they do not fully develop their sea legs until they turn two months old, but once they are ready, otters become very graceful and agile swimmers. They use their tails to propel themselves in the water while flexing their bodies. Other features like webbed feet, water-repellent fur, and nostrils and ears that close, make otters ideal for the water. 

 

Hunting for food

Otters are good hunters; they hunt either alone or in groups with excellent coordination. Their diet mainly consists of fish and, to a lesser extent, crustaceans, snakes, and other life forms. The Giant Otter´s daily intake quota consists of six to nine pounds of food.

 

Endangered species

It is undoubtedly a pleasure to watch the Giant Otter in their natural habitat; however, they have become more difficult to find since they are endangered. The Giant Otters’ existence is threatened by hunters who trade with their pelt and by deforestation. Conservationists are working hard to prevent the Giant Otter from extinction; hopefully, these efforts will lead to more charismatic mammals swimming in the rivers. 

 

If you wish to experience the Giant Otter in its natural habitat, contact us now (contact@npexpeditions.com) and start planning your next adventure!

 

The Enigmatic Jaguar

The Enigmatic Jaguar

The Pantanal in Brazil is a seasonally flooded inland delta system covering 150,000 square kilometers, making it the world’s most extensive tropical wetland. It is also a World Heritage Site because of its incredible animal and plant diversity. It is famed for being the only site on the planet where encountering a Jaguar is more likely than conceivable.

Jaguars are the giant wild cats in the Americas and the third-largest big cats in the world. They are solitary and elusive (after tigers and lions). They have the most powerful bite of any large cat and can crush a fully grown caiman’s head.

It is the fondest of water of any large cat. The caiman, a crocodile-like reptile, is the principal prey of the jaguar in the Pantanal.
While jaguars are primarily nocturnal hunters, they are active throughout the day in the Pantanal, making it the finest site in the world to see them in the wild. They only Live 12-15 years.

Jaguars and leopards are stunning spotted large cats that look so similar that most people can’t tell them apart. Can you, however, learn to tell them apart? The good news is that you’ll never have to guess which of these two cats you’re looking at in the wild again. You can only found Jaguars and leopards on separate continents.

Jaguars used to be found from the southern United States to northern Argentina. They now inhabit around half of their original range and list «Near Threatened» on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

This range is diminishing as a result of habitat destruction and degradation in a human-dominated environment.

In Brazil, there are now two strongholds for jaguars. The Amazon rainforest in the country’s north is home to the world’s most significant number of jaguars. The Pantanal, located farther south and smack dab in the nation’s heart, is home to the country’s second-largest population.

So, where is the finest spot in the world to observe Brazil’s national animal in the wild? The Pantanal in Brazil. Unlike the Amazon, the Pantanal is an open terrain that provides the ideal setting for viewing some of Brazil’s most famous species. The network of streams and ox-bow lakes upstream from the tiny fishing village of Porto Jofre (250 kilometers from Cuiaba) is the finest spot to see jaguars in the wild.

 

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The Lemurs of Madagascar

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Madagascar is known across the globe for its lemurs, which resemble a mix between a cat, a squirrel, and a dog. These species are only found on the island and exhibit a variety of fascinating habits, like singing like a whale (the Indri) and sashaying across the sand...

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The Hyacinth macaw «King of parrots»

The Hyacinth macaw «King of parrots»

The Pantanal is one of the world's most extensive inland wetlands, covering an area of roughly 88,803 square miles (230,000 square kilometers). The Pantanal is located mainly in the Brazilian states of Mato Grosso, and Mato Grosso does Sul, although it also extends...

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The Hyacinth macaw «King of parrots»

The Hyacinth macaw «King of parrots»

The Pantanal is one of the world’s most extensive inland wetlands, covering an area of roughly 88,803 square miles (230,000 square kilometers). The Pantanal is located mainly in the Brazilian states of Mato Grosso, and Mato Grosso does Sul, although it also extends into Bolivia and Paraguay; and is one of the world’s most fabulous natural reserves. Its enormous area is home to three ecosystems. Dry woods, also known as Chaco, may be found in the south, Savannah (Portuguese Cerrado) in the east, and the Amazon jungle in the north.

Depending on the temperature and climatic circumstances, the terrain comprises wetlands, periodically flooded meadows and woods, and various woodland types. The Pantanal is also home to a diverse range of vegetation and animals. It contains about 1,700 plant species and around 120 animal species; over 100 reptiles and amphibians, approximately 240 fish species, and over 650 bird species. The Pantanal also has the largest population of blue Hyacinth macaws globally, one of the most charismatic and colorful birds you’ll find in South America.

The beautiful Hyacinth macaw, a member of the parrot family, is the world’s most giant flying parrot. It may grow to be 3.5 feet long and have a wingspan of 4 to 5 feet. Most giant macaws weigh between 2 and 4 pounds and have extremely light bones that let them fly.

The unmistakable macaw is also known as the «king of parrots.» Its cobalt blue plumage contrasts with its yellow eye rings and beak base, along with sporting beautiful long graceful tails. The face feather pattern is very distinctive and as unique as a fingerprint. Macaws have long toes and sharp claws for latching onto trees, with their first and fourth toes pointing backward. Their powerful beak works as a third leg! You can find them in forest edges, open wooded areas, and palm savannahs, where it is seen mainly in pairs and small flocks that are surprisingly well-suited to the Amazon jungle’s bright fruits, flowers, and vivid green canopies.

Macaws are famous in the exotic pet trade due to their stunning appearance. The significant reasons for the demise of these spectacular birds are bird capture and habitat degradation. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species classifies them as «Vulnerable.» Since 1990 around 10,000 Hyacinth macaws were illegally taken to the pet trade, and their numbers dropped to a hazardous low of about 1,500 individuals. 

It is unlawful to buy and sell wild-caught Hyacinth macaws. Although trading macaws born in captivity is allowed, the birds are famously challenging to produce, which increases the demand for wild-caught eggs, more often trafficked from South America to Europe than living birds. Despite their dwindling numbers, you can still see Hyacinth macaws in the Northern Pantanal. They prefer to eat on the low-hanging fruit of palm trees, so you can often observe them at eye level.

Fruits, seeds, leaves, flowers, and nuts are their primary food source. Their strong beak allows them to crack open the shells of hard fruits like coconuts. Macaws congregate near riverbanks in the Amazon to feed on wet soil. There are numerous explanations for why they do this. It might be a means for them to neutralize the different toxins in their diet and help digestion. Others have stressed the importance of clay licks as a source of minerals, notably sodium, which is difficult for animals to get in the jungle. Although macaws appear to be impervious to many of their favorite foods’ toxins (such as Hura crepitans seeds), cherries, avocados, and chocolate are toxic to them.

You will hear the macaws before you see them. These birds are very clever and sociable creatures that assemble in groups of 30 to 100 individuals. Cries, squawks, and other distinct vocalizations of macaws like «craaa» may be heard throughout the jungle, especially early in the morning. This activity isn’t just for show; it marks territory, communicates with the flock, and locates mates. 

Macaws will choose a spouse after breeding age, typically between 3 to 4 years old, and stay with them for life. Furthermore, partners spend a significant amount of time together, not just for breeding but also for sharing food, grooming, and caring for their young. You can also see macaw couples flying close to one another throughout the woodland canopy.

Macaws live 60 years on average, although they can reach 80 years and even 100 in certain circumstances. Their long life in the wild is attributed to the lack of predators. When maintained as pets, there can outlive their owners! 

Many people may incorrectly believe that macaws feathers are solely used for adornment by the Amazon’s indigenous people. However, bright feathers are among the most valuable commodities in Amazonian culture for various reasons, such as identifying their wearer in nature or enjoying their significant mythical powers. 

Do you wish to visit macaws in the wild after reading these facts about them? Contact an NPE Advisor now (contact@npexpeditions.com) to start planning your excursion to The Pantanal.

The Green Anaconda of South America!

The Green Anaconda of South America!

The green anaconda, also known as the common anaconda and water boa, is a non-venomous boa species native to South America. There are many species of this reptile, but the most common of these is the green anaconda.

The green anaconda can reach 17.1 ft long. More typical mature specimens reportedly can range up to 16.4 ft, with the females, at around a mean length of 15.1 ft, being much larger in adulthood than the male. Weights are less well studied, though will reportedly range from 66 to 154 lb in an average range adult.

Green anacondas are the heaviest, and largest, type of snake in the world, but only the second longest (the longest type of snake is the reticulated python).

They are hunted by men for their expensive skin as the demand of anaconda skin is very high in the fashion industry.