92 Bowery St., NY 10013

+1 800 123 456 789

Tag: Nosy Komba

Beach Clean 5
BlogMarine Conservation

Beach Clean-Ups on Nosy Komba

By Alex Flucke, MRCI SCUBA Instructor

Beach Clean-Ups Nosy Komba

“Another Beach Clean…?”

A typical day on the Marine Conservation Program here at MRCI consists of scuba diving, snorkeling, entering data we collected while scuba diving and snorkeling, and getting set up to go diving and snorkeling. One would not typically think that a marine activity could be done on land, walking with our feet, not typically wearing a swimsuit but alas, the beach clean-ups. A verb, in which one walks along a beach with, in our case old rice sacks, and picks up any piece of man made trash they can get their hands on. This activity, in my humble opinion is one of the most important, if not the most important thing we do weekly on marine.

A typical phrase I hear at board reading, when volunteers hear that we will be doing a beach clean tomorrow is, “Another one?” or “But we did one yesterday!” I then jump on to my soap box, metaphorically, and shout “Yes we are!” You may be asking yourself why is this scuba instructor so passionate about beach clean-ups? I am passionate about them because they are both important, and needed here on Nosy Komba.

Beach Clean-Ups Nosy Komba

Participating in local beach clean-ups is one of the most visible forms of conservation and can take only an hour or two. A beach is covered in trash when you arrive, you leave probably a little dirty and smelly yourself, but it is obvious that you made an immediate difference. There is less trash that can choke our waterways as well as the creatures that call that body of water their home. Studies also show that people who participate in just one of the beach clean-ups have increased well-being (this was proven scientifically but I won’t get into the nitty-gritty numbers of it all), feel more confident in the ecosystem they cleaned, increased marine awareness and pro-environmental intentions, and most importantly are way more likely to participate in other beach clean-ups.

So, in conclusion, sure beach clean-ups help your local flora and fauna significantly, but you get a huge boost of well being for every piece of litter you squat down to grab. You may not come to Madagascar to volunteer with MRCI to participate in beach clean-ups, but you may leave with a cool beach backpack or clothing item you found on one (please wash before you wear or use)!

Also, if you are interested in looking into the article I spoke about it is called, “Can Beach Cleans Do More Than Clean-Up Litter? Comparing Beach Clean-Ups to Other Coastal Activities.” By Kayleigh J. Wyles, Sabine PAhl, Matthew Holland, and Richard C. Thompson (2017)

Make a difference and plan your own beach clean-ups

or Join our Marine Conservation Program today!

Beach Clean-Ups Nosy Komba

BlogForest Conservation

Chameleons of Nosy Komba

Author: Angus Hamilton
Male & Female Panther Chameleons MRCI Nosy Komba

The Panthers of Madagascar

When I landed in Nosy Be, an island off the coast of north-western Madagascar, after over a day spent in transit, I could not wait to dive in and get started. Although I was apprehensive about being in a totally different environment to what I was used to, I wanted to be in the forest, finding animals as quickly as possible! Luckily for me, it wasn’t long at all until I got my first look at some of the wildlife of Madagascar.

As we sped towards Hell-ville, the main town and port on Nosy Be, and the boat to my new home for the coming months on Nosy Komba,  my eyes were glued to the rich green of the forest that surrounded the roads.  A mere five minutes after leaving the airport though, a flash of vibrant green by the side of the road caught my eye. Something hanging from a tree branch. A slender body, but with a large casque (helmet-like structure) on its head, and a white stripe running down the side of its body… it was a male panther Chameleon (Furcifer pardalis), a species I was going to get to know pretty well over my first days at my new home.

The next day, while sitting down for lunch I spotted from the corner of my eye a green shape extending from one of the roofs of the huts. At first glance it seemed to be an overly large leaf, but after paying closer attention I realised that it was actually a male panther chameleon!

He had slowly, methodically made his way down to the edge of the roof trying to make his way to safety: a nearby tree branch. It was a great opportunity to witness some of the unique, and somewhat bizarre, adaptations that chameleons have developed over the years.

Male Panther Chameleons Nosy Komba MRCI 3

Our male (let’s call him Kobi) was precariously dangling from the edge of the roof. His back feet were clamped firmly onto the plant material used to create the roof; his prehensile tail wrapped tightly, acting as an anchor allowing him to reach (for the branch just out of his grasp).

Watching his efforts, the ingenuity of evolution and its work on chameleon feet left me in awe! Incredibly there is no perfect scientific description for their feet! “Wait… what?!” It’s true!! Chameleon feet are bizarrely unique in the animal world. How cool is that?

They fall somewhere between two categories: didactyl and zygodactyl. On the one hand (or foot!), they have a tong-like appearance which at first glance looks like two toes on each foot. This would give chameleons what is known as didactyl feet. Other didactyl species include sloths and many cloven-hoofed ungulates (hoofed mammals). However, upon closer inspection it becomes evident that there is more to each of these ‘toes’ than meets the eye… In fact, they are a bundle of toes fused together. On their front legs, the outer bundle has 3 toes and the inner has two. This is reversed on their back legs. The closest scientific description that we have at the moment is ‘zygodactyl’, which describes the feet of parrots and the majority of arboreal bird species. BUT, and here’s where it gets fascinating! They only have two toes on each side. The third chameleon toe in the different bundles removes them from fitting properly into that category. So there we have it. The lonely chameleon.

So why do chameleons have this cool, confusing adaptation? Scientists believe the enigmatic feet of these cold-blooded panthers are perfectly adapted for an arboreal lifestyle. The ‘tong-like’ formation of the toes allows the chameleon to wrap them around smaller branches and clasp tightly, providing excellent grip and stability. Each toe of the chameleon also has a small claw at the end. This claw allows them to walk along branches and climb trees that are too large for them to grip.

These arduous tasks are also greatly helped by their tail! The prehensile nature of the tail is another indication that panther chameleons have adapted to life in the trees. Prehensile tails are unique to animals that spend their lives in the tree canopy.  Many ‘new world’ primate species, for example spider monkeys, possess a prehensile tail.  Prehensile tails provide a couple of key benefits to our tree dwellers. Arguably the most useful benefit they provide is a point of anchorage, which the panther chameleon will use in many different situations. The tail is able to support the entire weight of the chameleon, allowing it to hang from branches (or roofs) and gain access to new parts of its habitat. When hunting, panther chameleons will wrap its tail around a tree for stability when using its weapon of choice… its projectile tongue. This anchorage is a necessity when you realise that the tongue can be as long as the chameleons body, and is ‘fired’ at prey from a distance!



Female Panther Chameleon

As I watched Kobi trying to reach his goal, I got a look at just how well he was able to anchor himself (to the roof using his prehensile tail and tong-like feet). You’ll all be very relieved to hear that Kobi did in fact achieve his goal. Once he finally managed to clasp his front feet onto this small branch and lever himself into a stable position, he let go with his back legs and grabbed the branch with them. At this point he uncoiled his tail from the roof, and off he went in search of his next meal.

The panther Chameleon is one of the most common chameleon species in the North/north-west of Madagascar, and definitely one of the most versatile. Populations from different areas of the country display different arrays of colour. Contrary to, well every belief really, chameleons aren’t able to just change to any colour that they like. Thanks Pascal! All colour changing chameleons have a set palette. Most of the time their colour change isn’t a conscious choice, but a product of physiological necessity. So the colour range of Furcifer Pardalis is insane!

Or is it? A 2015 study by Grbic et al. has thrown significant doubt on the conservation status of the panther Chameleon. Prior to 2015, all of these locales were thought to be the same species: F.pardalis. Now it has been revealed that there is sufficient genetic and behavioural, behavioural being a significant lack of interbreeding between locales, evidence to suggest that what was initially thought to be only one species is actually eleven!

Furcifer pardalis is currently listed as ‘Least Concern’ by the IUCN, the International Union of Conservation for Nature. However, this classification is based on the idea that all locales are the same species. Each of these newly discovered Furcifer species will need to be individually assessedto decipher how threatened they really are. Only based on that information can management strategies be updated to ensure the ongoing health and survival of all 11 species of the panther chameleon.

The panther chameleon, similar to most arboreal chameleons, prefers areas surrounding waterways; it generally struggles to survive in areas of dense forest. Instead they tend to spend most of their lives in more open areas, such as in trees that overhang streams, or, as has been identified on Nosy Be, overhanging roads. A study by Andreone et al 2005 espoused the importance of an area of buffer vegetation between roads and either forest or agricultural land, as it was in these areas that the panther chameleon was most commonly found. While being around roads presents other issues for slow-moving chameleons like Kobi, these findings suggest that a buffer zone between roads and panther habitat is an important management step for the ongoing survival of the panther.

Male Panther Chameleons Nosy Komba MRCI 2

Check out our Forest Conservation Program

Follow Angus’s Blog Here



1.  Grbic, D., Saenko, S. V., Randriamoria, T. M., Debry, A., Raselimanana, A. P. and Milinkovitch, M. C. (2015), Phylogeography and support vector machine classification of colour variation in panther chameleons. Molecular Ecology.

2. : F. Andreone , F. M. Guarino & J. E. Randrianirina (2005) Life history traits, age profile, and conservation of the panther chameleon, Furcifer pardalis (Cuvier 1829), at Nosy Be, NW Madagascar, Tropical Zoology, 18:2, 209-225.

Drongo Bird Nosy Komba MRCI 1
BlogForest Conservation

Bird Species on Nosy Komba

Author: Angus Hamilton

King of the Birds

At the Madagascar Research and Conservation Institute, we didn’t just focus on reptiles and amphibians! Another big part of our research was looking at the abundance of bird species on Nosy Komba! At the time that I left MRCI, we had nearly 20 different sites across Nosy Komba that we used to conduct bird surveys.

On our bird walks we’d conduct point count surveys, which involved silently watching and recording all sightings of birds within a certain distance from the survey site. We would also utilise the identification of bird calls to contribute to our data. These would prove particularly difficult for many of the volunteers that came through MRCI.

At the best of times bird calls aren’t the simplest things to identify, but the bird species on Nosy Komba didn’t make it any easier for us. Some of the most common bird species on the island just happened to have remarkably similar calls. For example, volunteers (and even some of the staff!) had great difficulty working out the difference between the calls of species like the Souimanga Sunbird (Cinnyris sovimanga) and the Madagascar Bulbul (Hypsipetes madagascariensis). These two species had a range of different calls that volunteers would need to learn, some of which you could only differentiate between because one was slightly higher pitched! It could take people months to be able to reliably tell the difference between them!

Drongo Bird Nosy Komba MRCI 1

Photo by: Lucy Prescott

On top of all of that though, Nosy Komba and Madagascar have one more trick up their sleeves to try and make life difficult for volunteers during bird surveys: a mimic.

The Madagascar Crested Drongo (Dicrurus forficatus) is an amazing species with the ability to copy the calls of other birds, and even some mammals. This allows it to do some pretty cool stuff! The drongo is a relatively small bird, with gorgeous black glossy feathers. In a certain light those feathers can even gain a blue sheen, just to further confuse the bird surveyors! The keys that give these guys away though, are the plume of feathers above the bird’s beak and a longish tail with a widening fork. The crested drongo is common throughout Madagascar, and as a result has been judged as ‘Least Concern’ by the IUCN Red List. However, it is not found in the treeless plains and savannahs of the central plateau of the island, which indicates that it is a forest specialist. This is not overly surprising, as the drongo is a passerine, an order (Passeriforme) distinguished by their toe arrangement. They have three toes facing forwards, and one backwards, giving them an ideal set up for perching in trees.

The Madagascar Crested Drongo has a great variety of calls, hardly a surprise when they are capable of mimicking birds AND mammals! I heard this myself one day while I was checking some of our butterfly traps that had been set up above camp. I was recording and releasing some of the butterflies that we had captured, when suddenly I heard a cat meowing. I was shocked, as I’d been checking these traps everyday for nearly the last two months and had never seen the camp cats anywhere around the survey area. As I tried to spot the cat, I became more and more confused as it was simply nowhere to be seen. Eventually I spotted a drongo in the shadow of a rock. As I watched, I saw it call out. Instead of hearing a bird call, I heard a meow… What the hell? This was the first time I’d seen first hand just how well the drongo was able to imitate other animals, and I hadn’t realised that their mimicry extended to mammals as well! To say I was surprised was an understatement!

The purpose of the drongo’s mimicry is, for lack of a better word, brilliant. It will perch on a branch in the forest, waiting, and watching. At the opportune moment, it will loudly mimic (for example) the shriek of the Madagascar Buzzard (Buteo brachypterus) or the alarm call of another bird. This scares other birds into a frenzy, doing whatever they can to escape the area and avoid becoming the ‘buzzards’ next lunch! In the chaos a whole array of insects will be disturbed from their hiding places, with a number of them taking flight. It is at this point that the drongo swoops down from its perch, and feasts upon its now easily accessible prey.

It also engages in some other pretty sneaky behaviour when it comes to finding food. The perches that the drongos prefer tend to be in the mid-canopy of the forest, particularly though in a very specific situation. The drongo notices when a bird, normally a larger species, sits towards the top of the trees and when a smaller species hunts lower to the ground. The drongo will stand watch, waiting for the opportune moment. As an insect tries to escape the hunting birds that sit around the drongo, it might move to the other side of a tree trunk. When it does so, as the other bird can no longer reach the bug, the drongo plucks it off the trunk and enjoys a comparatively easy easy meal!

Drongo Bird Nosy Komba MRCI 2

Photo by: Nathan Dunn

If you look at these behaviours, it seems that the crested drongo can be a pretty mischievous little bird! But just how cheeky is it? Though no studies have been conducted of the Madagascar crested drongo specifically, they have been done on other species of drongo on mainland Africa. During this study, they recorded the Fork-Tailed Drongo (Dicrurus adsimilis) as having 51 different alarm calls. It has been shown that the drongo could obtain nearly a quarter of their daily food intake through stealing the prey of another species, which is a crazily high amount all things considered!

These are just two incredible behavioural adaptations that the Madagascar crested drongo has developed! The success of this kind of opportunistic hunting has helped the drongo to become one of the most common birds around Madagascar. Another thing that has helped to make the drongo so successful though is their natural aggression. The drongos are surprisingly aggressive little birds, that have been known to scare off larger birds. Staff members at MRCI told me about times that they witnessed a drongo attack and frighten off a buzzard, the largest bird of prey on Nosy Komba! That’s no mean feat for such a small bird!

The drongo is a bit of a special bird in Malagasy culture too, and could even be described as a bit of a known quantity! In folklore, the drongo is known as the ‘king of the birds,’ but the story of how it gained this title will not sound overly surprising to you!

Drongo Bird Nosy Komba MRCI 3

Photo by: Lucy Prescott

There was a great fire, raging through Madagascar and many animals were doing whatever they could to try and fight the fire. One animal in particular was pulling more than their own weight. The fruit bats were having a great impact upon the fire, by far the most of any animal. However, the drongo saw an opportunity. They swooped down and covered themselves in the ashes of the fire, turning their feathers black, and flew to see God. They claimed the work of the fruit bats as their own, and God in turn rewarded them, giving them the title of either ‘king of the birds’ or ‘king of all creatures’ depending on which part of Madagascar you are from. The fruit bats flew to God, and explained that they had been the ones to put out the fire, that it had been they that had done all the work. But God did not believe them. And thus the drongo, cheeky and mischievous as it is, became the ‘king of birds’ in Madagascar.

While the drongo is one of the more common species on Madagascar, the ‘king of the birds’ is also definitely one of the most interesting. Its amazing ability to mimic the cries of other birds, and remarkably opportunistic hunting repertoire, has allowed the crested drongo to thrive. Despite just how common it is; it was a species worthy of much greater appreciation than what I gave it during my time in Madagascar. Looking at it now, I can see that it is one hell of a little bird!


Check out our Forest Conservation Program on Nosy Komba!

Follow Angus’s Blog Here



1. Gardner, C. J. & Jasper, L. D. 2014. A record of vertebrate carnivory by the Crested Drongo (Dicrurus forficatus). Malagasy Nature, 8: 105-106.

2. Deception by Flexible Alarm Mimicry in an African Bird, Tom P. Flower et al, Science May 1 2014

3. IUCN Red List, ‘Madagascar Crested Drongo’

4. Satanic+leaf-tail+gecko Nosy Komba
BlogForest Conservation

Uroplatus species of Nosy Komba

Author: Angus Hamilton

Uroplatus species of Nosy Komba 1

Tales of Camouflage and Leaf-Tails

During my time at the Madagascar Research and Conservation Institute, going out and searching for reptiles and amphibians was one of the most enjoyable parts of the job. Day or night, I was (almost) always keen to get out and conduct another reptile survey. Night surveys were particularly interesting. We tended to conduct these only once a week, rather than the at times every day of the daytime hikes, which meant that these were a special (but tiring) treat.

Night walks gave us a fantastic opportunity to get out and spot some of the more mysterious species of Nosy Komba. The daylight walks were great but there were many species that we’d never get the opportunity to see on these walks. It was only once night fell that we’d get the best opportunity to find some of these bizarre creatures.

At night, the day geckos (Phelsuma) would largely disappear (funnily enough), and in their place would emerge a variety of new nocturnal geckos, each one perhaps more bizarre than the last. This was highlighted by a particularly cool gecko that could shed all of it’s scales when grasped by a predator, leaving just a pink, slimy little body and a predator with a mess of slime and scales! What the hell?!

A couple of the nocturnal geckos are absolute masters of camouflage, and are unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

The leaf-tailed geckos of the genus Uroplatus are extraordinary! There are two branches of gecko within the genus, categorized by their camouflage. The larger, mossy or bark-like leaf-tailed geckos (like U.henkeli, or U.sikorae) and their smaller siblings, the leaf-like leaf-tailed geckos. Across the board, these are some pretty cool geckos, but the larger leaf-tailed geckos are out of this world! The Uroplatus henkeli is found on Nosy Komba, and their camouflage makes them ridiculously difficult to spot. Almost every volunteer that came through our camp dreamed of being able to see one of these elusive reptiles! However, these geckos have only ever been found on one of our transects. To make it even more difficult for the volunteers to see one, we only get to do nocturnal surveys at the site in question as part of a semi-regular overnight hike. So to say that they were a rare find was an understatement!

Now, let’s get into a bit more of the nitty-gritty of the Uroplatus species of Nosy Komba!

Henkel’s leaf-tailed gecko (Uroplatus henkeli) is a simply awesome specimen of a lizard! They are a fairly large species, recorded to grow up to nearly 30cm long. This makes it one of the largest of the leaf-tailed geckos, and one of the largest geckos in the world! They have mottled brown colouration, with a large, flat head and tail. But what is it exactly that makes this (so far) relatively plain sounding lizard such a camouflage aficionado?

Well, on top of their mottled colouring which matches the trees that they rest on, their bodies have developed a little adaptation which helps mask them even further. The Henkel has grown little tubercles along the sides of its body, specifically along the underside of the jaw, and its body up to the back legs. This fringing breaks up the outline of the gecko, making it near indistinguishable from the bark of the tree. It sounds crazy and hard to believe, but having seen it first hand, when they lie flat against the tree trunk they are nigh impossible to make out unless you happen to be looking at the tree from a particular angle. During a walk through Lokobe National Park, I had a henkeli pointed out to me but was simply unable to see it until I changed the angle that I was looking at the tree in question. This experience made me fully appreciate just how good the camouflage capabilities of the mossy leaf-tailed geckos actually is.

There was another thing that made this species such a fixation for volunteers though. When describing this gecko to volunteers, we always made sure that this particular behavioural adaptation was highlighted because it was just SO strange. When threatened, the henkeli would raise its head and tail, open its large mouth wide, and let loose a shrill, piercing scream! To further add to it, over the years a fady (or taboo) developed in relation to the scream of the henkeli. Should a henkeli scream at you, it brings bad luck NOT to scream back at the gecko! Funnily enough, lots of volunteer’s kind of loved the idea of being ‘forced’ to scream at a gecko.

The ‘mossy’ henkeli is not the only species of leaf-tailed gecko on Nosy Komba though! The island is also lucky enough to be home to one of the smallest of the Uroplatus’, the Spearpoint leaf-tailed gecko (Uroplatus ebenaui). These little guys are perhaps my favourite lizard on Komba! On top of being a cute little gecko, their heads look just a tad dragon-ish with little horns above their eye sockets. What’s not to like! Despite lacking the mossy camouflage of its larger brethren, they still have developed some pretty sneaky little adaptations that allow them to blend into their arboreal homes.  They have small bodies, and lot of little ridges of skin running along their bodies. These skin folds have a neat little effect. In a similar sense to the henkeli, unless seen at the right angle, these ridges gave the ebenaui a distinctly leaf-like appearance as they sit themselves across a twig waiting for insects to fly, or crawl, past.

Uroplatus species of Nosy Komba 2

They also have a significantly shorter tail than other Uroplatus species, shaped like (funnily enough) the tip of a spear. When compared to either other species in the leaf-like ebenaui-phantasticus complex, such as the Satanic leaf-tailed gecko of Ranomafana National Park, or the larger leaf-tailed geckos, such as the henkeli or the Mossy Leaf-Tailed Gecko (Uroplatus sikorae), the Spearpoint’s tail is significantly shorter. This can probably be attributed to their preferred substrates. The ebenaui tends to prefer to sit on small, thin branches which means a smaller tail might help them to not stand out. The mossy complex prefers, instead, to spend their days resting one to two meters off the ground, faces pointing downwards and flat against tree trunks. Here a longer, flatter tail would help them blend further into the tree, maximizing their camouflage.

I was lucky enough during my time travelling across mainland Madagascar to come across two other species of Uroplatus. My experience with these enigmatic geckos only further cemented them as my favourite lizards in Madagascar.

While exploring Ranomafana National Park, nearly a seven-hour drive south from the capital Antananarivo (Tana), our guide showed us a small tree and excitedly told us that somewhere on this plant was a leaf-tailed gecko. After a quick search, practically right in the middle of this little tree, was a gecko; Uroplatus phantasicus, or the Satanic leaf-tailed gecko. Getting the name from its devilish ‘horns’ above their eyes, presumably, this species has a larger tail than the Spearpoint leaf-tailed gecko, and looks almost exactly like a dead leaf! They have a paler line running down the center of their body, and thin, leaf-vein-like lines running all over their body. To complete their dead leaf-look, males of the species even have notches on their tails, ensuring the camouflage is accurate, and thus effective, as possible. Unless you knew what you were looking for, these geckos are incredibly difficult to spot.

The other species that I came across was during my time walking through the range of parks surrounding Andasibe National Park, three hours east of Tana. Here we found the Mossy leaf-tailed gecko (Uroplatus sikorae). One of the smaller species of the larger, bark-like leaf-tailed geckoes, once again I was simply blown away by just how good the camouflage of this gecko was! Check out the photo below, and you can see just how much the sikorae looked just like a lichen growth on the tree. It was a great example of how the fringing does a great job of breaking up its outline against the tree!

Currently, 14 species of Uroplatus are recognized, ranging from the Giant Leaf-Tailed Gecko (Uroplatus fimbriatus) which grows over a foot long, to the ten centimeter long ebenaui. Almost all of these 14 leaf-tailed gecko species of Madagascar are listed as being at least ‘vulnerable’ with the IUCN already. Only the Satanic leaf-tailed gecko is listed as ‘least concern.’ However, due to their incredible camouflage these geckos are highly sought after in the pet trade, and as a result have been listed on the CITES appendix II. This tells us that though they are not immediately threatened with extinction, the trade of Uroplatus species must be carefully controlled.

In 2004, all species within the Uroplatus genus were listed in the WWF’s ’10 Most Wanted Species’, a list designed to highlight the animals most at threat from “unsustainable trade and consumer demands” (WWF). Even within protected areas such as national parks, Uroplatus species are still being captured and sold into the illegal pet trade, making it extraordinarily difficult to maintain conservation strategies to help the long-term survival of these incredible geckos.

There is still so much we don’t know about these incredible geckos though. For example, it is thought to be almost certain that there will be more than just 14 species of Uroplatus out there. Scientists are pretty sure that a number of species exist within the current U.ebenaui complex, and it is only a matter of time until more of them are recognized as being separate species. In a similar fashion to the Panther chameleon we’ve looked at previously, once these new species are officially discovered an individual evaluation would need to be conducted. It is difficult to see how a number, if not most, of those new species would not be considered endangered to some degree, considering the survival status of the known species.

Unfortunately, these masters of camouflage are also at great risk from the loss and fragmentation of their habitat. All Uroplatus species depend on intact, relatively healthy forest to survive, and the ongoing deforestation within Madagascar is making this less and less common. Funnily enough, without trees their camouflage is not nearly as successful. When you consider that many of the leaf-tailed gecko species live in isolated pockets of forest, this becomes a little bit more troubling. At the end of the day, the forests of Madagascar are becoming ever smaller.


Check out our Forest Conservation Program on Nosy Komba!

Follow Angus’s Blog Here


Arkive (2017). Satanic leaf-tailed gecko videos, photos and facts – Uroplatus phantasticus | Arkive. [online] Arkive. Available at:

CITES (2017). How CITES works | CITES. [online] Available at:

IUCN (2017). Uroplatus ebenaui. [online] Available at:

IUCN (2017). Uroplatus henkeli. [online] Available at:

IUCN (2017). Uroplatus phantasticus. [online] Available at:

World Wildlife Fund (2017). WWF Announces ’10 Most Wanted Species’ | Press Releases | WWF. [online] World Wildlife Fund. Available at:

Marine Conservation Monthly Report_Turtle Cove_JAN 2018_1
BlogMarine Conservation

Marine Conservation Monthly Report

Author: Ethan Getz, Marine Science Manager
January 2018

Over the past few months, the marine conservation staff have worked to continue long-term reef monitoring projects while developing new methods to measure the health of our home reef and the surrounding reefs on Nosy Komba. Robust datasets have been collected from reef transect surveys, turtle watch, and nudibranch surveys. These long-term surveys will provide valuable information on the health of our MPA and some of the indicator species that inhabit it. In the coming months, efforts will be made to analyze these data in depth to decipher developing trends. While long-term data collection from existing surveys remains the primary goal, staff have also recently developed new reef survey methods.

Marine Conservation Monthly Report_Turtle Cove_JAN 2018_Coral Bleaching_1

Baseline surveys using the Spirit of Malala were developed in November to assess the health of reefs all around Nosy Komba. To date, three baseline surveys have been conducted (at xmas tree hotel, greenhouse and pyramids) and data have now been analyzed. Results suggest that the south and west sides of Nosy Komba have healthy coral reefs while reefs are more sparse on the eastern side. Results from the sessile surveys indicate that no coral bleaching is currently happening and that the reef appears to be in a period of recovery. The presence of rock, sand and silt indicate that there have been damaging events in the past, but currently the reefs are rebuilding.

Marine Conservation Monthly Report_Turtle Cove_JAN 2018_Coral Bleaching_2

Marine Conservation Monthly Report January 2018

Active swimmer surveys were used to determine the number of fish species at each site and which functional group they belong to (i.e. piscivores, herbivores, ect.). Results suggest that there is a good distribution of fish from each functional group on each reef, but the relatively low abundance of piscivores indicates that overfishing may be a problem on Nosy Komba.

Marine Conservation Monthly Report_Turtle Cove_JAN 2018_Coral Bleaching_3

Marine Conservation Monthly Report January 2018

These species are generally the first ones to be fished out and their relatively low numbers point to fishing pressure in the area. Benthic surveys also provided data on invertebrate diversity around Nosy Komba and suggest that there is a healthy reef community.

In addition to baseline surveys, artificial reef surveys on the pyramids at Stonehenge and Madhatter have produced meaningful data. On average, each pyramid provides habitat for 115 fish, 39 bivalves and a variety of sessile species. In addition, many species of fish such as the Malabar snapper and red emperor snapper are routinely found on the artificial structures, but only occasionally on the natural reef. The high abundance of juvenile fish on the pyramids is also an encouraging sign that the structures are acting as a nursery for fish larvae settling out of the water column. Overall, the pyramids seem to be increasing both abundance and diversity of many reef species making them well worth the investment to construct them.

Marine Conservation Monthly Report_Turtle Cove_JAN 2018_Coral Bleaching_4

Other ongoing projects include the coral bleaching surveys, invasive species surveys and turtle monitoring. Since coral bleaching and invasive species surveys have only just started, preliminary results will be analyzed in the coming months. Results from active turtle surveys, turtle walks and turtle watch are still being analyzed, but preliminary results suggest that there is a healthy population of resident turtles on our reef. Turtle walks have been less productive with only one hatched nest having been found, but it is clear that at least some turtles nest on Nosy Komba. In summary, the reefs around Nosy Komba appear to be showing the signs of human activities, but overall it is still a healthy reef system with strong community structure.

Marine Conservation Monthly Report_Turtle Cove_JAN 2018_Coral Bleaching_5


Find out more about our Marine Conservation Program Here