Cuvier’s Oplure …

The Anjajavy webpage burbles thus …

The forest sheltering rosewoods and baobabs is home to many animal species such as the famous Verreau lemur (Coquerel’s Sifaka), birds of paradise, the chameleon, the Cuvier oplure (a type of iguana)…

The range of Verraux’s Sifaka brings it nowhere near Anjajvy. It is reasonable to suppose that Coquerel’s Sifaka was inserted as a correction. The nearest bird of paradise is on an entirely different island – New Guinea, but considerable licence has to be allowed when dealing with common names. But what to make of the Cuvier Oplure? A google search turned up 358 results most of which bore a striking similarity to each other, this creature has an entirely new mode of reproduction, not sexual, not parthenogenesis but by an asexual means known as cut and paste.

In Madagascar Wildlife a Visitors Guide from Bradt Guides we find that “The presence of iguanids (family Iguanidae) is unexpected as the stronghold of the group is Central and South America“. There are no iguanas in Africa, nor have any fossils turned up there. The Madagascan representatives, seven species in two genera, were included in the Iguanidae on morphological grounds. DNA sequencing has opened up a whole new approach to working out patterns of descent and relationship and, as a result, taxonomy is undergoing considerable revision. The Madagascans now get a family of their own, the Opluridae. The genetic distance between them and the Iguanidae indicates that they shared a common ancestor well before the break up of Gondwana. It is likely that they rafted to their present position on Madagascar the Ark rather than by swimming.

Georges Cuvier (1769-1832) was to all intents and purposes the founder of modern vertebrate paleontology, the guy who demonstrated the reality of extinction by the careful comparison of fossil forms with modern animals and was the first to describe a number of Iguanid taxa. He thoroughly deserves to be remembered in the name of a reptile and so I present to you Cuvier’s Oplure, Oplurus cuvieri

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Or in English English (and as we have seen, not quite accurately) the Black-collared Iguana. It may be found on the ground or climbing trees and is common around Anjajavy.

Anjajavy …

No roads lead to Anjajavy. It  sits on a peninsula that is not connected by road to the main highway system. We flew in …

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… this time by charter plane, the redoubtable Cessna Caravan, a splendid aircraft that will carry 10 to 12 people and a sensible amount of luggage about 1000 nm at 185 knots. It will make do with a fairly short dirt strip. There is only one engine and the undercarriage is fixed. Ideal for this sort of work. (Although if you’re thinking of buying one you should also consider this alternative). A short drive brings you to paradise.

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The hotel is set in gardens and looks out onto the sea, it is surrounded by native forest on a limestone landscape. Not far away there are mangroves. Coquerel’s Sifaka and Common Brown Lemurs roam the grounds. Cuvier’s oplure peeks at you through the cracks in the boardwalk (and from every webpage – if you want a good example of how far nonsense can be spread by cut and paste just google “Cuvier’s oplure” … I will demystify this creature in a post of its own).

The accommodation units are beautiful and comfortable. Anjajavy l’Hotel boasts membership of Relais et Chateaux.

The food is French and the waiters are not, what could be better than that?

Go boating, fishing, snorkelling, walking, caving, botanising, birding and take afternoon tea with the lemurs.

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When we arrived the Maître de Maison, Cédric de Foucault gave us a warm welcome and brief introduction. The impact of the place was such that when, at the end of his speech, he asked “Any questions?” the one that sprang to mind was “How much do you want for the place?”