Madagascar Biodiversity and Conservation.

A traveling photographic exhibit by David Parks with Larry Barnes

This document provides information about the traveling exhibit: contacts, description, components, logistics, sample installation photographs and views of the main images.

A short video showing the exhibit installed at the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History is available.


Name: David R. Parks
Address: 585 Chenery St., San Francisco, CA 94131
Telephone: (415) 586-6831, day (650) 723-5568
Fax: (650) 725-8564
e-mail address:


For information from the point of view of a displaying institution, please feel free to contact:

Steven Bailey, Director (email:
or Paul M. Finnegan (email:
Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History
165 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove, CA 93950
(831) 648-3116 Ext. 12, FAX (831) 372-3256, 

Background and Purpose

Madagascar has one of the most fascinating assemblages of organisms on Earth. A large fraction of the original biodiversity still exists, but it may not survive long into the next century. 

The exhibit is designed to illuminate the principles of ecology and evolutionary biology and educate people about the forms, implications and threats to biodiversity. In particular, it addresses (1) specific biodiversity issues related to Madagascar's unique organisms, (2) interesting information about less well-known organisms that may be more specific to those types of organisms than to Madagascar, (3) characteristic factors in the ecology, history, anthropology, etc. of Madagascar, and (4) current conservation, development, economic and social issues. The presentation tries to draw connections that will increase people's desire to understand and protect biodiversity in North America and their back yards as well as in Madagascar.

Most of the photographs show organisms (especially invertebrates, smaller vertebrates and plants) at home in the rainforest, dry tropical forest or spiny desert of Madagascar. The text presented with each photograph emphasizes both the uniqueness of these lifeforms and their connections to the history of life on earth. Natural, modified and devastated landscapes, people and cultural artifacts are also represented. 

The hope is that educational projects of this sort will lead to (1) greater appreciation of the diversity and beauty of organisms in general, (2) stronger public support for investigating and maintaining that diversity and (3) provision of greater help to the Malagasy people in retaining the treasures of the big red island.

General Description of the Exhibit

The main part of the exhibit consists of 55 framed images, each of which has an explanatory panel of educational and illustrative text. The prints are 16x20 to 20x30 inches, large enough to be engaging at a distance while drawing the viewer in and revealing new details at close range. Most of the explanatory panels include one or two small prints related to the primary image, and all carry a small location map. Three 32x45 inch multi-image panels are devoted to specific topics (Why is Madagascar so special?", "The people, culture, history and economy of Madagascar" and " Conservation issues in Madagascar" - see installation photos below). There is also a map of places mentioned in the exhibit and a tape/CD of natural sounds recorded in Madagascar.

The exhibit appeals to a broad audience. Most of the images are striking enough to interest younger children, while the explanatory text presents appropriate basic information. Intriguing details about the organisms and more sophisticated points relating to the uniqueness of the Malagasy biota and to its connections with the rest of the history of life on Earth make the exhibit highly informative even to adults with a good general background in natural history.

Detailed description of the components of the exhibit

1. Photographic prints: 55 framed images 16x20 to 20x30 inches. They were printed directly from 35 mm slides (mostly Fuji Velvia film) on Fuji polyester material. The prints have a protective film overlay with a finish suitable for display in a gallery with controlled light or in an area with windows or other uncontrolled light.   They are mounted on Sintra backing and framed for durability and optimal presentation.

2. Each print has a descriptive panel providing specific information on the organisms shown, related biological and ecological and conservation information, and, in some cases, connections with North American organisms. Most of the descriptive panels include small photos complementing the primary image or further illustrating the text.

3. There are three 32 x 45 inch composite panels (see installation photos) with photographs, maps and text on the topics
(1) Why is Madagascar so special?
(2) The human scene: the people, culture, history and economy of Madagascar
(3) Conservation issues in Madagascar

4. A 30 minute audio tape/CD (from material recorded by L. Barnes on the trip) with sounds of birds, lemurs, frogs, cicadas, bats, etc. This can be played as background in the exhibit area. 

5. A single sheet brochure for exhibit visitors including (1) information on the exhibit itself, (2) a bibliography, and (3) contact information for travel and for conservation in Madagascar.

Space requirements: In its simplest layout the exhibit takes about 150 feet of wall space, but this can be shortened by doubling up some 16 inch height photos.

Other participating institutions: The exhibit was first shown at the Missouri Botanical Garden, St Louis, MO which partially funded its production. The project has been sponsored by the Fund for Wild Nature.

Transportation arrangements/requirements: Shippable by air freight or truck, in one crate weighing 330 pounds and measuring 48 x 36 x 30 inches.

Insurance and security arrangements/requirements: Minimal.
The exhibit consists of photographic prints and other relatively replacable items which should be appropriately insured but should not require special arrangements.

Conservation arrangements/requirements for the exhibit: No special arrangements should be necessary.

Related books and merchandise: If you have a bookstore, we can provide a list of books that should be stocked as well as information on the growing list of available recordings of Malagasy music. A local development project associated with Ranomafana National Park is producing a variety of interesting crafts items. These should be available soon in the United States, and we will have information on how they are being distributed.

Support programming for the exhibit:
Special events - Dr. Parks is available to present a slide/lecture program for members of your institution or the general public. This program includes many images not in the exhibit. It has serious educational content, but the presentation is organized as a travelogue drawing on journals of experiences in Madagascar. The talk is supplemented with calls of the organisms and other sounds recorded on the trip.

Installation photos

1. One of the 55 regular pieces with a large closeup print showing an Iguanid lizard, a small print showing the whole lizard and another small print showing an iridescent boa snake. The main text includes a local note customized to the current exhibit site (to be adjusted for other venues). The small map shows major forest types and is marked with the locations where the photographs were taken. The main text is in 20 point bold type for easy readability.

The main text:

Gondwanaland relics: Iguanid lizards have a strange distribution pattern due to Madagascarís long isolation: Found mostly in the New World, they are also present in Madagascar, Fiji and Tonga. True boa snakes are found only in the New World and in Madagascar, although boa fossils are known from Africa.

Upper inset: Note the spiny tail, supposed to be useful in discouraging predators when the lizard is headed into a rock or tree crevice.

Lower inset: None of Madagascarís more than 60 snake species is poisonous. Some, such as this iridescent boa, are very attractive.

St. Louis Area: In Missouri you can find Iguanid lizards like the Eastern Fence Lizard (Sceloporus undulatus) and the Collared Lizard (Crotaphytus collaris).

The boxed detail information:

Main photo and upper inset: Opluris cuvieri from dry tropical forest at the Ampijoroa Forestry Station. Lower inset: The New World and Madagascar boas form the subfamily Boinae in the Boidae. This individual from Ranomafana National Park is probably Sanzinia madagascariensis.

2. Installation detail 

Left: A map of Madagascar showing the places referred to in the exhibit. The base map shows the major forest types and protected areas.

Center: One of the three composite panels, this one on "Why is Madagascar so special?". It includes a location map, Gondwana breakup maps, a topographic map and a forest types map. The basket at the lower left holds information sheets for exhibit visitors.

Right: One of the 55 regular exhibit pieces featuring the Flatid bug Phromnia rosea.

3. Composite panel on "The people, culture, history and economy of Madagascar". The main text sections are in 20 point bold type for easy readability. Each topical text section is matched to a photograph or graphic, and includes a box with specific information about the photograph or graphic itself.
4. View of the rainforest section of the exhibit at the Missouri Botanical Garden.


 © Copyright 2000 David R. Parks and the Missouri Botanical Garden.