Manombo Special Reserve and Classified Forest / Agnalahaza Forest **

The Manombo Special Reserve and Classified Forest is in southeastern Madagascar, south of the town of Farafangana. Although infrequently visited, it is the easiest place to see the Critically Endangered southern black-and-white ruffed lemur (Varecia variegata editorum) and the Endangered white-collared brown lemur (Eulemur cinereiceps). The Manombo Special Reserve covers some 5,000 ha, of which perhaps 3,000 ha is still forest, while the adjoining Classified Forest covers some 10,000 ha, of which about 7,000 ha is forest. It is hoped that the latter will soon be gazetted as a reserve as well. Manombo can be reached by traveling about 30 km south of Farafangana to the village of Manombo on the excellent RN12. There are then several access routes to the forest, either on foot or on dirt tracks requiring a four-wheel-drive vehicle. One of the best sites is about 7 km in from the asphalt road, heading east. A visit requires permission from Madagascar National Parks, and arrangements can be made through one of the local hotels, especially the Austral Hotel and Les Cocotiers. Use of a guide is essential, as it is not easy to find the best sites for these animals. Durrell (formerly, the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust) also maintains a research presence in this area. Aside from the two species already mentioned, which are among the real prizes of a lemur-watching expedition to Madagascar, one can also see several others at Manombo. These include an undescribed species of mouse lemur (Microcebus) and two newly-described species that are only found in this region; the Manombo sportive lemur (Lepilemur jamesorum) and the Manombo woolly lemur (Avahi ramanantsoavanai). Greater dwarf lemur (Cheirogaleus major) and southern bamboo lemur (Hapalemur meridionalis) are also present, and you can see signs of aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis) as well. The Agnalahaza Forest (formerly the Mahabo Forest Reserve) is close to Manombo, and is located 40 km along the main highway south of Farafangana, then 5–7 km in on a dirt track. It covers 1,500 ha and is covered in littoral forest, an increasingly rare formation in Madagascar, including some 600 ha of wooded swamp and stands of traveler’s palm (Ravenala madagasariensis). The Missouri Botanical Garden carry out research there, and has already discovered 10 new plant species. Several groups of the white-collared brown lemur (Eulemur cinereiceps) occur in this forest, but Lepilemur, Varecia and Daubentonia appear to be absent. Arrangements can be made as for Manombo, and use of a guide is essential.

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