Posted by Eternity at Love and Light Portal
PUBLISHED: 17:27 GMT, 5 December 2012 | UPDATED: 18:37 GMT, 5 December 2012
This breathtaking collection of photographs documents the staggering natural beauty and scenery of the island of Madagascar home to a unique collection of animals found nowhere else in the world.
Deciated photographer Paolo Torchio, 51, spent over a month travelling through the Western region of the island just off the coast of Africa to capture the stunning shots.
On his travels he captured the island’s famous Baobab Trees as well as the jagged ‘stone forest’ of Tsingy, carved out over millions of years by acidic tropical rain.
Isolated and inhospitable, this huge collection of razor-sharp vertical rocks looks like the last place where wildlife would thrive.
But despite its cold, dangerous appearance, the labyrinth of 300ft stones is home to a number of animal species, including 11 types of lemur.
Italian Paolo, who has lived in Africa for 22 years, used a tiny flat-bottomed boat called a pirogue to move 90 miles from the centre of the island to the coast.
He said: ‘I’m always looking for new experience in the wild, with new animals encounter and new environmental experience.
‘These adventure trips are always full of funny moments. At one point we lost our way in the pirogue because an incredible, deep fog was covering everything.’
Madagascar is home to an extraordinarily diverse collection of animals. They include fossas – which resemble a cross between cats and dogs, 70 types of lemurs, flying foxes and narrow striped mongooses.
Its has been an island for more than 120 million years, while its animal population first appeared some time after 65 million years ago. Humans only arrived on the island some 2,000 years ago at which point some Lemur species were the size of gorillas
Wonders of nature: (left) A baobab tree grows amidst the jagged rocks of the Tsingy showing the Incredible adaptation of life on the island. (right) A pair of Sifaka lemurs cling to the branches of a tree. At one stage Madagascar was covered by 85 per cent forest but this has now been reduced to just 8 per cent
But scientists have long been puzzled how the ancestors of these animals got to Madagascar.
Paolo was forced to paddle through waters teeming with crocodiles in his pirogue, which sits just a few inches above the water.
He added: “It was a lot of fun. Madagascar is a fascinating place. The rock forest is an incredible and remote place.
‘This immense slab of limestone was left exposed to the erosion of acid rains that modelled and shaped those incredible figures.
‘Life has adapted to this particular environment in which plants have their roots in deep caves with their leaves searching for sun hundreds of meters on top.
‘Small, deep forests grow wherever soil is found between the rocks, giving food and shelter to bewildering variety of lemurs. This is a unique and still largely undiscovered place.’
Some experts claim the island used to be connected to Africa by a land bridge and that it became isolated from the rest of the continent once mammals had arrived.
More than 600 new species, including the world’s smallest primate and a colour-changing gecko, have been found in Madagascar in just over a decade.
But many of these newly discovered plants and creatures are under threat, particularly from the destruction of the island’s forests, a report by conservation charity WWF warned.
Experts identified more than 615 new species on Madagascar between 1999 and 2010 – 41 mammals, 385 plants, 69 amphibians, 61 reptiles, 17 fish and 42 invertebrates.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, Madagascar has lost more than a million hectares of forest in the past 20 years, and in the aftermath of a coup in March 2009 and the subsequent political turmoil tens of thousands of hectares were raided for hardwoods.
Sifaka Lemur spotted climbing a tree in Madagascar A famous Baobab Trees nicknamed ‘the lovers’ are entwined around each other in an embrace
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