Left undisturbed, islands that are geographically isolated evolve ecosystems seen nowhere else unusual plants and animals can thrive free from predators and invasive competitors. Madagascar, the large island off East Africa, is truly a case in point: Native rarities include lemurs and many types of chameleons and orchids.
Most are now endangered, a point touched on, though lightly, in the kid-pleasing 2005 animated movie Madagascar.
A large new exhibit at the S.C. Aquarium in Charleston lets you see the island wildlife and clues you into the need for conservation .
Charleston is about 210 miles from Charlotte, a 3 1/2-hour drive, one way.
To see and do
Journey Madagascar opens May 5 in the aquariums first-floor touring-exhibit gallery, and will be there for at least three years. Its included in regular aquarium admission.
The star will clearly be the ring-tailed lemur, the mammal King Julien plays in Madagascar. Lemurs are primates that can grow up to 18 inches long and have ring-striped, bushy tails that are up to 25 inches.
Theyre active during daytime, which will add to the fun.
Theres scientific debate over whether lemurs are primates, like humans and monkeys, but like monkeys they are social creatures that live in troupes and move quickly through the tree canopy with the aid of their fingers and toes. Due to habitat destruction, the ring-tailed lemur is classified as near-threatened.
The family in Charleston will be a father and three of his sons.
Other only-in-Madagascar creatures include the vasa parrot (gray feathers, pink beak), northern spider tortoise, the Madagascar tree boa (the snake can grow to be 5-feet long), tiny and incredibly colorful mantela frogs and tomato frogs, plus geckos. Also here: Nile crocodile, which is also native to Africa.
Journey Madagascar will feature approximately 250 animals representing 34 species.
It will also include a Mini-gascar play area where toddlers can burn excess energy and enjoy exhibit-related activities.