The Anjanaharibe Massif, together with the neighboring Marojejy Massif, harbors the most diverse ecosystems known in Madagascar. This is due primarily to its great variation in topography and elevation, which influence rainfall and temperature. Acting as a barrier to storms blowing west off the Indian Ocean, the massif creates highly uneven rainfall patterns, with the eastern slopes receiving between 3000 and 5000 mm (115–200 inches) of rainfall per year, and the western slopes, in the rainshadow, receiving significantly less. Temperatures at the lower elevations average 25º C (77º F) in February and 18º C (64º F) in July, but can drop to near freezing on the mountain summits in the austral winter months. The mountainous terrain creates a wide range of microclimates and affects soil type and depth, as well. These and many other factors combine to create innumerable habitats for an astoundingly wide variety of plant and animal species.
In addition to its remarkable biodiversity, Anjanaharibe is home to many rare and unusual species of plants and animals which are found almost nowhere else. Three of these include the takhtajania, the black babakoto (indri), and the simpona fotsy (silky sifaka).
Land of the Takhtajania The takhtajania (Takhtajania perrieri) is a “living fossil” — a very ancient species of tree that has been growing on earth since the days of the dinosaurs 120 million years ago. This small tree with large, aromatic leaves and small red flowers was one of the first flowering plants to evolve on earth and so is of great interest to scientists. It was first discovered and collected in 1909, but because it is so rare and the forests are so remote and dense, it was not found again until 1994. In fact, it was not until three years later, in 1997, that it finally was officially recognized as being the long-lost takhtajania species. [Takhtajania fact sheet (pdf file)]
Songs of the Babakoto
Anjanaharibe-Sud is home to the northernmost populations
of babakoto, or indri. Here, the babakoto show a nearly all-black coloration that is quite different from the indri found further to the south (for example at Andasibe-Mantadia).
Babakoto live in small family groups and maintain communication between groups
with haunting songs that can be heard miles away. Local people
say the songs of the black babakoto in Anjanaharibe-Sud are different from those that live further south, but scientists still know very
little about the babakoto in this region.
[Listen to babakoto songs (mp3 file)]
Refuge of the Simpona Fotsy The simpona fotsy, or silky sifaka (Propithecus candidus), is a very rare and beautiful all-white lemur that is found only in the mid-elevation rainforests of the Anjanaharibe-Sud and Marojejy mountains. This is one of the most critically endangered primates in the world, with possibly only one hundred individuals left in the wild, and none at all in captivity. Its survival is directly linked to the preservation of the rich forests of Anjanaharibe-Sud and Marojejy on which it depends. [Simpona]