Island of Marvels
Madagascar, the world’s oldest island, broke off from Africa and India and has been on its own for more than 70 million years. In splendid isolation, it has evolved its very own wildlife – more than 80 per cent of it is found nowhere else. And that wildlife is quite extraordinary. In this episode, we reveal the island’s most bizarre and dramatic places, and the unique wildlife that has made its home in each, thanks to the geology and isolation of this Alice-in-Wonderland world.
The stars are the lemurs, Madagascar’s own primates. A family of indris leaps like gymnasts among rainforest trees; and crowned lemurs scamper around Madagascar’s weirdest landscape, the razor-sharp limestone tsingy, which looks like something from another planet. And sifakas, ghostly white lemurs, move like ballerinas across the forest floor.
Madagascar’s wildlife is famously strange. Bright red giraffe-necked weevils use their necks to build leaf nests with the complexity of origami. Chameleons stalk the forests, none more intriguing than the pygmy chameleon, the world’s smallest reptile, delicately courting a female in its giant world. The fearsome fossa, Madagascar’s only big mammal predator, looks for a mate – 15 metres up a tree. And in the southern ‘spiny desert’, a spider hauls an empty snail shell, 30 times its own weight, up into a bush as a shelter; something never before filmed, and possibly never observed in the wild before.
At the end of the episode, we go ‘behind the camera’, to reveal the challenges of capturing the behaviour of the little-known wildlife of this island. How do you go about filming a rare, secretive lemur that lives in the middle of Madagascar’s biggest lake?
The Lost Worlds
David Attenborough tells the story of one of the most intriguing wild places on earth: Madagascar, a huge island of dramatic landscapes, where the wildlife is strange and unique; some of it has been filmed for the very first time.
In this episode, we travel deep into Madagascar’s most luxuriant landscape; the rainforests that cloak the island’s eastern mountains. Remote and mysterious, this little-known region of towering peaks and precipitous escarpments is home to over half of all Madagascar’s unique species.
Narrated by David Attenborough, this second episode showcases an amazing collection of wildlife, many of which have never before been filmed. Cyanide-eating lemurs, cannibalistic frogs, meat-eating plants, cryptic leaf-tailed geckos, tadpole-eating wasps, tunnel-digging chameleons and house-proud flycatchers are just some of the weird and wonderful wildlife featured in this programme.
Along this coast, every cliff and valley is like a lost world where nature has run riot.
Amongst the boulders fields of the Andringitra Highlands, a few hardy troops of ringtailed lemurs make their home. More at home in the hot southern forests, these eke out a living at the top of the coldest mountain on the island. To fight the sub-zero cold they have developed thick coats and can only survive the freezing nights by huddling together in rocky crevices. In this high ‘desert’, they must eat cacti for moisture.
But descend just a few hundred metres and it’s a very different world, where dense forests are permanently shrouded in clouds. The Marojejy Massif is the last sanctuary of one of Madagascar’s rarest lemurs, the elusive, ghostly white silky sifaka. There are thought to be only two hundred of these playful and endearing creatures left on Earth.