Madagascar’s Stone Forest

At the big Tsingy, Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict N...
Image via Wikipedia

Madagascar’s Stone Forest by Stephen Alvarez

36024930 Madagascars Stone Forest by Stephen Alvarez

A city of limestone towers rises in western Madagascar.

76141890 Madagascars Stone Forest by Stephen Alvarez

Unexplored passages shelter some of the island’s—and the world’s—strangest species, from the ghostly Decken’s sifaka, a lemur, to a host of reptiles, insects, and plants.

68674086 Madagascars Stone Forest by Stephen Alvarez

52347126 Madagascars Stone Forest by Stephen Alvarez

Climbers Luke “Fumakilla” Padgett and John “Razor Sharp” Benson descend a wall of limestone in Tsingy de Bemaraha national park and reserve in western Madagascar. Sharp, steep, and brittle, the protected area’s maze of sunbeaten rock has repelled all but a few explorers and scientists, leaving large parts of the region—and countless resident creatures—unknown to humans. “I’ve never climbed anywhere like this,” Benson said. “If you fall, even a few feet, you get impaled.”

77557364 Madagascars Stone Forest by Stephen Alvarez

Slot canyons and wet caves cut through the neighborhoods of limestone towers.

53023814 Madagascars Stone Forest by Stephen Alvarez

67006015 Madagascars Stone Forest by Stephen Alvarez

Benson weaves through skin-ripping pinnacles. In Malagasy, the formations are called tsingy, meaning “where one cannot walk barefoot.” The terrain resists intrusions from hunters, hungry cattle, and wildfires.

88636293 Madagascars Stone Forest by Stephen Alvarez

Blurring through the void, the Decken’s sifaka sails across the canyon. Among Madagascar’s largest lemurs and one of the tsingy’s signature species, sifakas regularly jump along the jagged skyline as they range between fruit trees.

33701274 Madagascars Stone Forest by Stephen Alvarez

Fearless acrobat, a Decken’s sifaka leaps a chasm a hundred feet deep.

62246831 Madagascars Stone Forest by Stephen Alvarez

The leaping lemur comes to rest on a splinter of stone. Little is known about the behavior of Decken’s sifakas, but evolution has equipped them with thick pads on hands and feet, helping them navigate their serrated home.

58433276 Madagascars Stone Forest by Stephen Alvarez

47194685 Madagascars Stone Forest by Stephen Alvarez

55628291 Madagascars Stone Forest by Stephen Alvarez

The Milky Way sparkles above slit-topped canyons as a nocturnal gecko hunts for insects. Scientists who visit the tsingy often go on “night spots,” hikes through the dark forest to look for unfamiliar creatures such as fist-size cockroaches. “In a way this area is very representative of the whole island of Madagascar,” says herpetologist Hery Rakotondravony. “There are many kinds of environments here and many kinds of species. It’s very rich. There’s a lot to discover.”

10948470 Madagascars Stone Forest by Stephen Alvarez

75305098 Madagascars Stone Forest by Stephen Alvarez

41378613 Madagascars Stone Forest by Stephen Alvarez

Often no wider than a hiker’s shoulders, slot canyons swallow water in the rainy season, funneling much of it to underground chambers. The passages remain moist year-round, supporting dozens of species of invertebrates and amphibians.

77381321 Madagascars Stone Forest by Stephen Alvarez

96901263 Madagascars Stone Forest by Stephen Alvarez

Vertical pupils identify a seseke, or leaf-tailed gecko, as a nocturnal creature. Its camouflage works so well that the lizard doesn’t hide during the day. It simply flattens itself against tree trunks while waiting for darkness and insects to eat.

55411156 Madagascars Stone Forest by Stephen Alvarez

An aerial view of tsingy formations reveals rows of tall limestone towers and deep, straight canyons—a landscape that resembles dense city blocks. The top of the tsingy is arid and bare, while the canyon bottoms, shielded from the desiccating sun, collect rain and soil. The city comparison isn’t far off: Different animals live at different levels within the vertical habitat provided by the stone high-rises. Desert-adapted creatures command the heights while moisture-lovers prowl the damp shadows below.

93961704 Madagascars Stone Forest by Stephen Alvarez

Nightfall does nothing to soften the spiny ramparts, yet cooler temperatures and rising humidity entice many nocturnal creatures to emerge. Says biologist Steven Goodman, one of the few scientists to make repeat visits, “We’ve just touched the surface as far as finding out what lives there.”

68063965 Madagascars Stone Forest by Stephen Alvarez

A Decken’s sifaka peers out from a jagged stone maw. The tsingy region is a lemur hot spot: Several species inhabit the canyon forests, including the brown lemur and endemic nocturnal lemurs—the tiny mouse lemur and John Cleese’s woolly lemur.

Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park.

The Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park is a national park located in the African nation of Madagascar. The national park centers on two geological formations: the Great Tsingy and the Little Tsingy. Together with the adjacent Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve, the National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.[1][2]

Description

The Tsingys are karstic plateaus in which groundwater has undercut the elevated uplands, and has gouged caverns and fissures into the limestone. Because of local conditions, the erosion is patterned vertically as well as horizontally. In several regions on western Madagascar, centering on this National Park and adjacent Nature Reserve, the superposition of vertical and horizontal erosion patterns has created dramatic “forests” of limestone needles.[1]

The word tsingy is indigenous to the Malagasy language as a description of the karst badlands of Madagascar. The word can be translated into English as where one cannot walk barefoot.[2]

Biology

The unusual geomorphology of the Tsingy de Bemaraha World Heritage Site, which encompasses both the National Park and the adjacent Strict Nature Reserve, means that the Site is home to an exceptionally large number of endemic species of plants and animals that are found only within extremely small niches within the tsingys. For example, the summit, slope, and base of a tsingy’s limestone needle form different ecosystems with different species clinging to their exceptionally steep slopes.[2]

References

  1. ^ a b “”Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve””. UNESCO. http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/494. Retrieved 2009-11-01.
  2. ^ a b c Shea, Neil (2009 Nov). “Living On a Razor’s Edge: Madagascar’s labyrinth of stone”. National Geographic. http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/print/2009/11/stone-forest/shea-text. Retrieved 2009-11-01.
Enhanced by Zemanta
Advertisements

About lupinelight

I am a photographer and graphic artist. I practice Tibetan Buddhist meditation and mantra and sutra copying. I've spent a good deal of time studying Eastern religions and mystical traditions from around the world, as well as shamanic practices of indigenous cultures, and entheogenic spiritual pathways. My favorite philosopher is Ken Wilber. I enjoy listening to, among others, Patti Smith and Modest Mouse. I donate money to help save the wolves, and I spend time writing letters and signing petitions to stop dogfighting rings, save the rainforests, oceans, and more. I believe that whatever I do, I should do it with a whole heart, even if it feels as if it's breaking at times. We're beings of light, and light doesn't break, it refracts into rainbows.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s