FLORA and FAUNA at Berenty
Ringtail Perched on Opuntia © photo by D Custance
FLORA and FAUNA
The animals inhabiting the gallery forest are mostly the same species as those within the surrounding area, i.e., the spiny forest. The difference is that where there is year-round water, animal populations are very much larger. Having hundreds of each species of lemurs and a thousand fruit bats in one square kilometer is only possible in the gallery forest. That means that the forest also supports predators: the harrier hawk, Polyboroides radiata, and the Madagascar buzzard, Buteo brachypterus. Possibly, though, there are smaller reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates which specialize on more humid habitats, and have discontinuous distributions in the remaining patches of gallery forest without entering the drier spiny forest.
Plants, in contrast, are very largely different between the two adjacent forest types. The gallery forest is dominated by tamarinds, Tamarindus indica, or in Malagasy, kily. Emergent Acacia rovumae reach 30 meters in height. In Malagasy, they are called benono, many-nippled, for the thorn bases that stud their trunks. Like other trees of the gallery forest, they are bushy-crowned, and evergreen for most of the year. In contrast, the spiny forest is dominated by Didiereacea and Euphorbiacea. The spiny forest plants have a wide variety of swollen stems, roots, and trunks for storing water. Their leaves are adapted to avoid too much sun; set vertically, or drooping at midday. For much of the dry season many plants are leafless. This means a forest of no shade, even as you push through the interlace branches of the thicket.