Sometimes described as the world’s eighth continent, Madagascar is home to an astounding array of flora and fauna unique to this island state -—plus some of the world’s best whale-watching sites. Take a closer look and discover what makes this isolated country so exciting.
A closer look 說古論今
Madagascar is the world’s fourth largest island. The island is believed to have broken off from the main continent of Africa about 160 million years ago. Experts believe that humans arrived relatively recently, around 2000 years ago. There are several theories as to the original settlers, but broadly speaking the people, much like the landscape, are a blend of Asian and African. Malagasy, the commonly spoken language, is the only language in the African region to be a member of the Malayo-Polynesian family, and resembles Southern Borneo’s Maanyan. French is also widely spoken.
Madagascar’s unique biodiversity is a result of its isolation from the African continent. Rainforests and dry forests, plains and mountains, central high rice paddies and excellent coral reef ecosystems — this island nation has them all. Five percent of the world’s flora and fauna are unique to this island, which is around the same size as France.
However the very isolation which has allowed Madagascar’s ecosystem to flourish also brings problems. Transportation costs are high and much of the population is reliant on agriculture for their living. Recently, deforestation has become widespread. A sad side effect of this is that some of the animals and plants which are found nowhere else in the world are in danger of dying out forever. Currently there are 472 species listed as being at risk of extinction in Madagascar.
WHO KNEW? 你知道嗎?
Madagascar is home to some pretty amazing wildlife. The Fossa (pronounced Foo-sa) looks like a mix between a snow leopard and a dog. It can grow to up to 1.5m long. It has a tail which can be up to half of the length of its body. Although it looks quite cat-like, it is actually closely related to the mongoose. It can leap between trees like a squirrel and is Madagascar’s largest remaining carnivore. One of the Fossa’s favorite meals is the giant leaping rat. This animal is about the size of a rabbit with long, pointy ears and large rear legs which it can use to jump up to one meter in air in order to get away from the Fossa. Unfortunately both species are endangered.