Madagascar is a stunningly beautiful country with a warm and resilient people and an extraordinary biodiversity. But life here is not always easy. The country is ranked as one of the poorest in the world, and communities are beset by flooding and cyclones.
On Madagascar’s Independence Day, here are eight fascinating facts as No Strings gets ready to take our Tales of Disasters preparedness and safety programme to the island later this year:
- Madagascar is the world’s fourth largest island after Greenland, Papua New Guinea and Borneo, measuring almost 1,000 miles on its longest axis.
- Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world. According to the World Bank, more than 80% of the population lived below $1.25 a day in 2010, and more than 90% below $2 a day. In 2013 it was ranked 151 out of 187 countries on the Human Development Report.
- The island is highly vulnerable to natural disasters, including destructive cyclones, droughts and torrential flooding. It’s estimated that a quarter of the population — five million people — currently live in areas at high risk of natural disasters. It has a largely tropical climate with two seasons: a rainy season (December-April) and a dry season (May-November).
- About 80% of the animals found in Madagascar do not exist anywhere else on Earth. Lemurs are one, and today there are over 70 species and sub-species in the country.
- The island’s largest predator is the fossa. It has a cat-like body and a dog-like nose, but it is neither a cat nor a dog. This endangered animal is actually a close cousin of the mongoose.
- Together with lemurs, baobab trees, shown here, are among the most iconic symbols of Madagascar.
- The Malagasies trace their language to Asian roots, even though the country is much closer to the African mainland, separated only by the narrow Mozambique Channel.
- Formerly an independent kingdom, Madagascar regained independence in 1960. Its name was given by Marco Polo, though it was the French who colonised the island in 1896 and not the Portuguese.