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Berenty Private Reserve has a name that means ‘big eel’ but it is famous for its lemurs, especially ring-tailed and sifakas. The reserve is along the River Mandrare, and the water means that although it is located in the south of Madagascar, which is more arid than tropical, gallery and riverine forest can grow and allows a large variety of animals to live here.
The reserve has two sections of forest; Malaza and Ankoba. There are plenty of broad forest trails allowing safe solo expeditions into the forest. A lot of the creatures are only active at night and it is safe to explore on your own in the dark, using a flashlight to bring out the eyes of the animals. At dusk you can travel into spiny forest with a guide to see mouse lemurs, and the giant trees that are less like trees and more like giant cacti have an unusual and interesting atmosphere that is like no other.
Most visitors to the reserve come for the lemur. It is a guarantee that you will see brown, ring-tailed and shfaka lemurs, and these trust people as they haven’t been hunted for seventy years.
The ring-tailed lemurs (of which there are around 500 in the reserve) seem to be quite arrogant, and are fairly comical to watch as they swagger around engaging in ‘stink fights’ in which they wave their tails doused in secretions from glands on their bodies in each others faces, or otherwise eating flowers, fruit, insects and chameleons.
The Verreaux’s sifaka is the cuddlier of the two, with creamy white fur and a black face, with a brown cap on top to complete the ensemble. There are around 300 of them in the reserve, and they are mostly seen in the trees. When they do come to the ground, however, their forearms are so short that they have to hop with their hind legs together in a bizarre way of getting around.
Red-front brown lemurs have been introduced to the park and are unusual in that it is possible to distinguish which sex an individual is by the markings on their coat. These lemurs have behaviour that varies from others, in that the females do not have complete dominance over the males.
There are several other species of lemurs including the lepilemur and grey mouse lemurs. These are mostly nocturnal.
The lemurs are not the only striking mammals in the reserve; fruit bats occur in abundance and are worth a look if you want to see the bat trees that are covered in huge colonies of them.
Of the reptiles, chameleon, crocodile and tortoises are frequently seen, whilst the chances of seeing a Dumeril’s boa are also fairly high.
Birdwatching is also extremely rewarding here, with nearly 100 species having been recorded. Many of these are endemic to Madagascar, including hook-billed vangas, two species of coua and coucals.