With cyanide-eating lemurs, cannibalistic frogs, carnivorous plants, tadpole-eating wasps, tunnel-digging chameleons and house-proud flycatchers, this second episode of the natural history series about one of the most intriguing wild places on Earth, narrated by David Attenborough, features an amazing array of Madagascar’s wildlife.
Over half of Madagascar’s unique species live in the narrow band of mountains and rainforest on the island’s eastern coast. This is the land of the unexpected.
A few troops of ringtailed lemurs have made their home at the top of the coldest mountain on the island, in the Andringitra Highlands. To fight the sub-zero temperatures they have developed thick coats, but can only survive the freezing nights by huddling together in rocky crevices.
Just a few hundred metres lower, the forests are permanently shrouded in clouds. This is the last sanctuary of the elusive, ghostly white silky sifaka. There are thought to be only 200 of these playful and endearing creatures left.
Lower again into the lush rainforests, thickets of 30-metre-high bamboo hide one of Madagascar’s most remarkable animals — the golden bamboo lemur, only discovered a few years ago. It’s extraordinarily specialised, eating just one species of bamboo: a plant loaded with highly toxic cyanide. Every day they consume 12 times the lethal dose of this poison with no ill effects — no one knows how they can do this.
In just a few remote places, luxuriant rainforests reach right down to the Indian Ocean. Big and noisy, strikingly colourful red-ruffed lemurs boss their way around these rich forests, defending fruiting trees from troops of raiding white-faced brown lemurs. Their massive consumption of fruit is vital to the health of these eastern forests, as they are the only way seeds are spread throughout the forest.
The behind-the-scenes Madagascar Diaries feature the challenges of filming the red-ruffed lemurs.