Plants & Animals

The Bezà Mahafaly Special Reserve is home to a wide range of endemic plants and animals. It is the only National Protected Area in Madagascar that includes the unique and dramatic gradient from riverine to spiny forest. Wildlife is abundant at Bezà, with many species endemic to the island and some found only in the south.

Two lemur species (Propithecus verreauxi , Lemur catta) leap showily through the forest by day, and eyes gleaming in a flashlight’s beam signal the presence of two species active at night (Lepilemur leucopus and Microcebus griseorufus). Carnivores are harder to see, but tracks and occasional sightings mark the travels of the endemic, puma-like fosa (Cryptoprocta ferox). The rare, termite eating, large-eared tenrec Geogale aurita is found in the dry spiny forest of Bezà Mahafaly and is one of four tenrec species at Bezà.

Close to a hundred species of birds are present year-round or seasonally, including the spectacular giant coua (Coua gigas) and six species from the endemic family Vangidae. A flourishing population of radiated tortoises (Astrochelys radiata) and a diversity of chameleons, lizards, and snakes are to be found and, when the river is in flood, the occasional crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus). The rich array of butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera), beetles (Coleoptera), and ants, wasps and bees (Hymenoptera) have been systematically inventoried, and voucher specimens of many of these invertebrates are archived in the Field Station Museum’s collections.

Along the banks of the Sakamena River, the Bezà Mahafaly Special Reserve protects lush forest rooted in soils moistened by its waters. Tamarind trees (Tamarindus indica) are the dominant species here, and with several endemic species (e.g. Albizzia polyphylla, Acacia rovumae) they form a closed canopy – and a plentiful source of food for many animals.

The west of the Reserve encompasses great stands of spiny forest, the hallmark of southern Madagascar found nowhere else in the world. Plants display a wide range of adaptations to arid conditions: seasonal loss or year-round absence of leaves (Terminalia spp., Commiphora spp.; Euphorbia tirucalli), succulent leaves (Kalanchoe spp.), spines (Alluaudia procera), and tubers (Dioscorea spp.). Altogether, the Reserve harbors over 450 plant species from 79 families. Voucher specimens for a majority of plant species are housed at the Field Station Herbarium.

Click here for a list of faunal species at Bezà Mahafaly Special Reserve.

lemur catta

Ringtailed lemur (Lemur catta)

Sicklebill Vanga

Sicklebill Vanga (Falculea palliata)

Chabert Vanga

Chabert Vanga (Leptopterus chabert)

Radiated tortoise

Radiated tortoise (Astrochelys radiata)

Riverine forest at Bezà Mahafaly

Riverine forest at Bezà Mahafaly

Spiny forest at Bezà Mahafaly