Madagascar facts for kids

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Republic of Madagascar
Repoblikan'i Madagasikara
République de Madagascar
Flag Seal
Motto: Fitiavana, Tanindrazana, Fandrosoana  (Malagasy)
Amour, patrie, progrès  (French)
"Love, Fatherland, Progress"
Anthem: "Ry Tanindrazanay malala ô!"
Oh, Beloved Land of our Ancestors!
Location of Madagascar
Location of Madagascar
Capital
and largest city
Antananarivo
Official languages Malagasy, French
Demonym Malagasy
Government Semi-presidential republic
 -  President Hery Rajaonarimampianina
 -  Prime Minister Olivier Solonandrasana
Independence from France
 -  Date June 26, 1960 
Area
 -  Total 587,041 km2 (47th)
226,597 sq mi
 -  Water (%) 0.009%
Population
 -  2011 estimate 21,926,221 (53rd)
 -  1993 census 12,238,914
 -  Density 35.2/km2 (174th)
91.1/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2011 estimate
 -  Total $20.610 billion
 -  Per capita $943
GDP (nominal) 2010 estimate
 -  Total $8.59 billion
 -  Per capita $320
Gini (2001) 47.5
high
HDI (2010) Increase 0.435
low · 135th
Currency Malagasy ariary (MGA)
Time zone EAT (UTC+3)
 -  Summer (DST) not observed (UTC+3)
Drives on the right
Calling code +261
Internet TLD .mg
LocationMadagascar.png

Madagascar is a large island nation in the Indian Ocean, off of the east coast of Africa. Twenty-two million people live there; its capital is Antananarivo. It is the world's fourth largest island.

The official languages are Malagasy and French.

Geologists think that about two million years ago, Madagascar was a part of a big landmass that included what is now the continent of Africa, but it broke off. Madagascar would later break off of the Indian subcontinent.

History

People have probably lived in Madagascar for at least 2000 years.

France took over the city of Antananarivo in 1895, and added Madagascar as a colony two years later. Madagascar became independent from France, which meant it became its own country, on 26 June, 1960. On March 17, 2009, President Marc Ravalomanana quit because of pressure from the military. Andry Raejolina became the next president.

Geography

terraced emerald paddy fields checker softly rolling hills
Hills covered with dense blue green tropical forests
White sand beach lined with palm trees along a turquoise sea
The terraced paddy fields of the central highlands of Madagascar (left) give way to tropical rainforest along the eastern coast (center) bordered by the shores of the Indian Ocean (right).

At 592,800 square kilometres (228,900 sq mi), Madagascar is the world's 47th largest country and the fourth-largest island. The country lies mostly between latitudes 12°S and 26°S, and longitudes 43°E and 51°E. Neighboring islands include the French territory of Réunion and the country of Mauritius to the east, as well as the state of Comoros and the French territory of Mayotte to the north west. The nearest mainland state is Mozambique, located to the west.

The prehistoric breakup of the supercontinent Gondwana separated the Madagascar–Antarctica–India landmass from the Africa–South America landmass around 135 million years ago. Madagascar later split from India about 88 million years ago, allowing plants and animals on the island to evolve in relative isolation. Along the length of the eastern coast runs a narrow and steep escarpment containing much of the island's remaining tropical lowland forest.

To the west of this ridge lies a plateau in the center of the island ranging in altitude from 750 to 1,500 m (2,460 to 4,920 ft) above sea level. These central highlands, traditionally the homeland of the Merina people and the location of their historic capital at Antananarivo, are the most densely populated part of the island and are characterized by terraced, rice-growing valleys lying between grassy hills and patches of the subhumid forests that formerly covered the highland region. To the west of the highlands, the increasingly arid terrain gradually slopes down to the Mozambique Channel and mangrove swamps along the coast.

Pastel striated stone outcroppings jut from the plains
Giant baobabs clustered against the sky
Bizarre succulents growing sparsely from deep red earth
The grassy plains that dominate the western landscape are dotted with stony massifs (left), patches of deciduous forest, and baobab trees (center), while the south is characterized by desert and spiny forests (right).

Madagascar's highest peaks rise from three prominent highland massifs: Maromokotro 2,876 m (9,436 ft) in the Tsaratanana Massif is the island's highest point, followed by Boby Peak 2,658 m (8,720 ft) in the Andringitra Massif, and Tsiafajavona 2,643 m (8,671 ft) in the Ankaratra Massif. To the east, the Canal des Pangalanes is a chain of man-made and natural lakes connected by canals built by the French just inland from the east coast and running parallel to it for some 600 km (370 mi).

The western and southern sides, which lie in the rain shadow of the central highlands, are home to dry deciduous forests, spiny forests, and deserts and xeric shrublands. Due to their lower population densities, Madagascar's dry deciduous forests have been better preserved than the eastern rain forests or the original woodlands of the central plateau. The western coast features many protected harbors, but silting is a major problem caused by sediment from the high levels of inland erosion carried by rivers crossing the broad western plains.

Climate

Madagascar map of Köppen climate classification
A Köppen climate classification map of Madagascar
Biogeographic timetable of Madagascar - journal.pone.0062086.g003
Biogeographic timetable of Madagascar over the last 200 million years

The combination of southeastern trade winds and northwestern monsoons produces a hot rainy season (November–April) with frequently destructive cyclones, and a relatively cooler dry season (May–October). Rain clouds originating over the Indian Ocean discharge much of their moisture over the island's eastern coast; the heavy precipitation supports the area's rainforest ecosystem. The central highlands are both drier and cooler while the west is drier still, and a semi-arid climate prevails in the southwest and southern interior of the island.

Tropical cyclones annually cause damage to infrastructure and local economies as well as loss of life. In 2004 Cyclone Gafilo became the strongest cyclone ever recorded to hit Madagascar. The storm killed 172 people, left 214,260 homeless and caused more than US$250 million in damage.

Ecology

Ravenala madagascariensis Maui
The island's iconic traveller's palm (ravinala) features in the national emblem.

As a result of the island's long isolation from neighboring continents, Madagascar is home to an abundance of plants and animals found nowhere else on Earth. Approximately 90% of all plant and animal species found in Madagascar are endemic, including the lemurs (a type of strepsirrhine primate), the carnivorous fossa and many birds. This distinctive ecology has led some ecologists to refer to Madagascar as the "eighth continent", and the island has been classified by Conservation International as a biodiversity hotspot.

More than 80 percent of Madagascar's 14,883 plant species are found nowhere else in the world, including five plant families. The family Didiereaceae, composed of four genera and 11 species, is limited to the spiny forests of southwestern Madagascar. Four-fifths of the world's Pachypodium species are endemic to the island. Three-fourths of Madagascar's 860 orchid species are found here alone, as are six of the world's nine baobab species. The island is home to around 170 palm species, three times as many as on all of mainland Africa; 165 of them are endemic. Many native plant species are used as herbal remedies for a variety of afflictions. The drugs vinblastine and vincristine are vinca alkaloids, used to treat Hodgkin's disease, leukemia, and other cancers, were derived from the Madagascar periwinkle. The traveler's palm, known locally as ravinala and endemic to the eastern rain forests, is highly iconic of Madagascar and is featured in the national emblem as well as the Air Madagascar logo.

OaklandZooLemurs
The ring-tailed lemur is one of over 100 known species and subspecies of lemur found only in Madagascar.

Like its flora, Madagascar's fauna is diverse and exhibits a high rate of endemism. Lemurs have been characterized as "Madagascar's flagship mammal species" by Conservation International. In the absence of monkeys and other competitors, these primates have adapted to a wide range of habitats and diversified into numerous species. As of 2012, there were officially 103 species and subspecies of lemur, 39 of which were described by zoologists between 2000 and 2008. They are almost all classified as rare, vulnerable, or endangered. At least 17 species of lemur have become extinct since humans arrived on Madagascar, all of which were larger than the surviving lemur species.

A number of other mammals, including the cat-like fossa, are endemic to Madagascar. Over 300 species of birds have been recorded on the island, of which over 60 percent (including four families and 42 genera) are endemic. The few families and genera of reptile that have reached Madagascar have diversified into more than 260 species, with over 90 percent of these being endemic (including one endemic family). The island is home to two-thirds of the world's chameleon species, including the smallest known, and researchers have proposed that Madagascar may be the origin of all chameleons.

Endemic fish of Madagascar include two families, 15 genera and over 100 species, primarily inhabiting the island's freshwater lakes and rivers. Although invertebrates remain poorly studied on Madagascar, researchers have found high rates of endemism among the known species. All 651 species of terrestrial snail are endemic, as are a majority of the island's butterflies, scarab beetles, lacewings, spiders and dragonflies.

Economy

Madagascar treemap
A proportional representation of Madagascar's exports

Agriculture is a big part of the economy in Madagascar, including the growing of coffee and vanilla. Madagascar sells more vanilla than any other country in the world. Madagascar also makes money from tourism.

Provinces

In 2004 Madagascar was divided into 22 regions. It used to be divided into 6 provinces.

Regions and former provinces
New regions Former provinces Population 2004 estimate
Diana (1), Sava (2) Antsiranana 1,291,100
Itasy (3), Analamanga (4), Vakinankaratra (5), Bongolava (6)
Antananarivo
5,370,900
Sofia (7), Boeny (8), Betsiboka (9), Melaky (10) Mahajanga 1,896,000
Alaotra Mangoro (11), Atsinanana (12), Analanjirofo (13) Toamasina 2,855,600
Amoron'i Mania (14), Haute-Matsiatra (15), Vatovavy-Fitovinany (16), Atsimo-Atsinanana (17), Ihorombe (18)
Fianarantsoa 3,730,200
Menabe (19), Atsimo-Andrefana (20), Androy (21), Anosy (22) Toliara 2,430,100

History

People have probably lived in Madagascar for at least 2000 years.

France took over the city of Antananarivo in 1895, and added Madagascar as a colony two years later. Madagascar became independent from France, which meant it became its own country, on 26 June, 1960. On March 17, 2009, President Marc Ravalomanana quit because of pressure from the military. Andry Raejolina became the next president.

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