Robin Hoskyns Nature Photography – Blog

Images and stories of nature, science and conservation.

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Return to Anja

I recently returned from my second trip to Madagascar. It felt good to be back after spending six months there in 2015. Memories came flooding back and it didn’t take long to get back into the swing of Malagasy life.

Unfortunately this was a much shorter visit with the primary objective of shooting footage for my final film project as part of the MA in Wildlife Filmmaking at UWE.

I had planned the film based on the visit to Anja I wrote about in this blog post. Having got amazing images in just a couple of hours I knew that this would be an incredible location for a film, offering a relatively easy opportunity to get some great wildlife footage in a stunning location. Despite how cool the location and wildlife is the thing that convinced me that this was the place was the story of the reserve itself.

Even though it’s a great story, much of my planning before leaving was thinking about how to make the story into an interesting film. Conservation films are notoriously difficult to make as they can often leave the viewer feeling despondent or be too informational and not particularly interesting to watch for the average person.

The story of Anja is a positive one which means I have the chance to make an uplifting and inspiring film. The edit is still a work in progress so you will have to wait and see if I have achieved these high aims!

The shoot went well and it was amazing to be camping right on the edge of the forest, waking up to the sounds of the lemurs calling with the light starting to hit the cliffs that provide Anja’s epic backdrop.

Our guides were great and it was good to spend a good length of time in the location getting to know them and improving my Malagasy. Our cook kept us well fed with a selection of Malagasy dishes served with Malagasy sized portions of rice!

I didn’t have too much time for photos, it’s really difficult to manage shooting both stills and video simultaneously as it is a different mindset required for each, and for this trip filming was my priority! I did manage to get some images though and some were taken by my course mate, Ross who accompanied me on the shoot. Hopefully these give you a sense of what the shoot was like, enjoy!

And here’s a couple of quick clips:

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Milne-Edward’s Sifaka


Recently I have been spending a lot of time going out with the Sifaka team recording the behaviour of the Milne-Edwards Sifaka (Propithecus edwarsi). These Sifakas are the largest lemurs found in Ranomafana National Park (RNP) and have been continuously studied here since 1987.

Formerly considered a subspecies of the Diademed Sifaka (Propithecus diadema) P. edwarsi is now considered a full species and is listed as Endangered by the IUCN. Ranomafana National Park is the stronghold for this Lemur species with half of the total population thought to be found within the park.



Sifakas are social animals and live in groups of 3 to 9 individuals and like many Lemur species females are the dominant sex. They occupy large home ranges covering 45 to 55 hectares. Both male and female sifakas regularly mark their territory with scent.


Unlike other lemurs that move in a more quadrapedal fasion, Sifakas are vertical clingers meaning that they leap from trunk to trunk using their huge back legs performing a 180 degree twist in midair to land back feet first. It is incredible to see them moving through the forest hopping from one trunk to the next.

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Including Sifakas, 8 species of lemur have been studied long term in RNP and environmental variables such as rainfall and temperature have been recorded for this period as well as tree phenology. This data is especially important for studying the effects of climate change on endangered species restricted to isolated areas of habitat.

P. edwarsi are long-lived, they have been recorded as living up to 30 years old in Ranomafana. They reproduce slowly and older females continue to give birth until death with most infants born in June and July. Their diet consists mainly of leaves, fruits, and seeds and varies seasonally, with a preference for fruits and seeds when available and leaves when fruits and seeds are not available.


Much of Ranomafana was subject to logging in the late 1980s and the effect of the differing levels of anthropogenic disturbance on the Sifakas has been well studied. Groups in unlogged forest have been found to consume more calorie and nutrient-rich fruits and seeds than groups in previously logged forest, which consume more leaves.

Groups living in logged forest travel less per day to minimize energy use, but cover a larger area overall to acquire resources. Sifaka groups in the unlogged forest appear to need less area to acquire necessary resources due to increased availability, but move more per day throughout the year to obtain higher-quality but patchily distributed resources, such as fruit.

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Anja Reserve: finding an icon of Madagascar

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Last weekend we visited Anja Community Reserve. This is a tiny reserve of only 30 hectares but it is the closest place to Ranomafana to see the icon of Madagascar, the Ring-Tailed Lemur. Despite its tiny size Anja is home to over 300 Ring-Tails which are well habituated to tourists. As a private community reserve all entrance fees are put towards local development projects.

After arriving and paying our entrance fees we quickly found some ring-tails in the small fragment of dry forest located in a gap between the cliffs. The light wasn’t too good and there were quite a few other tourists so after watching the lemurs for a while we left them to it and headed up to the cliffs to see the view.

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After a short walk and some rock hopping we got up to the view point looking out across the valley over houses and rice paddies. The landscape is totally different to the eastern rainforest slopes and is much more representative of the central Madagascan plateau. Although this was probably once all forest it is much drier than Ranomafana or Kianjavato. We spent a little while soaking up the epic scenery and just as the light was starting to get nice someone spotted a group of Ring-Tails making their way up the rocks towards the caves where they spend the night.

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I managed to clamber down and get some shots of them sitting on the rocks, soaking up the last of the suns warmth with the epic back drop across the valley. I was having a great time and could have stayed following the Lemurs until they finally went to sleep however the guide was getting impatient for us to get back as we were only half way round the two hour circuit. Very reluctantly I left the Ring-Tails to go about their business and followed the guide back down through the forest.

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Walking back out of the reserve I thought I had missed the best of the light on the cliffs however as we got to the car park the sun just broke through casting a strip of golden light across the cliff face. On the taxi-brousse back to Fianarantsoa I was buzzing from a somewhat rushed but extremely productive two and a half hours of photography.

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Lemurs of Kianjavato

A few images of four of the Lemur species  I regularly encountered whilst in Kianjavato that I never got round to posting. Looking forward to getting some images of the Milne-Edwards Sifaka and Golden Bamboo Lemurs in Ranomafana NP although this might be more of a challenge as finding them could be a bit more difficult.


Eulemur Rufifrons  red-fronted brown lemur

Eulemur Rufifrons – Red-Fronted Brown Lemur

Eulemur Rufifrons  red-fronted brown lemur sleeping

E. Rufifrons sleeping fluffball!

Eulemur rufifrons  red-fronted brown lemur silhouette

E. rufifrons silhouette

Greater Bamboo Lemur (Prolemur simus)

Greater Bamboo Lemur (Prolemur simus)

Greater Bamboo Lemur (Prolemur simus)

Greater Bamboo Lemur (Prolemur simus) soaking up some sun.

P. simus having a nibble...

P. simus having a nibble…

A Greater-Bamboo Lemur doing what they are best at.

A Greater-Bamboo Lemur living up to it’s name.

Black and White Ruffed Lemur (Varecia variegata)

Black and White Ruffed Lemur (Varecia variegata)

V. variegata looking up from a nap

V. variegata looking up from a nap

Varecia leaping.

Varecia leaping

Varecia feeding on a Ravenala flower

Varecia feeding on a Ravenala flower

Varecia hanging out...

Varecia hanging out…

A big leap...

A big leap…

Black and White Ruffed Lemur (Varecia variegata)

Black and White Ruffed Lemur (Varecia variegata)

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First impressions of Madagascar….

One of the ubiquitous green Day-Geckos on a Ravenala palm.

One of the ubiquitous green Day-Geckos on a Ravenala palm.

The first thing that hit me about Madagascar was the level of development or rather the lack of it. For the drive from the capital “Tana” to Kianjavato I had mentally prepared myself, expecting to be shocked by the lack of forest. Whilst there were very few trees remaining until we got close to Ranomafana national park the thing that took me by surprise was the sheer number of people. Madagascar’s population is over 22 million people and it seemed like a lot of these were out and about, using the road to dry rice, transport goods either in baskets on their heads or in wooden carts and moving herds of Zebu cattle. Almost the entire drive was village after village of mud brick houses and wooden huts surrounded by banana plants and rice paddies. Even the small bit of Tana we saw by day seemed distinctly rural. Having been here a little while now I’m getting used to the hustle and bustle of Madagascar and hopefully there will be more images to come soon!

A Brookesia

A Brookesia “leaf” chameleon.

A juvenile rufi (Eulemur rubriventer)

A juvenile rufi (Eulemur rubriventer)

Vatovavy at sunrise taken from the camp site.

Vatovavy at sunrise taken from the camp site.

The most common frog around camp but one of the coolest!

The most common frog around camp but one of the coolest!

Greater Bamboo Lemur (Prolemur simus) living up to it's name.

Greater Bamboo Lemur (Prolemur simus) living up to it’s name.



A varecia in a typical pose

A varecia variegata  in a typical pose.