20 Fascinating Facts About Madagascar
1. The name ‘Madageiscar’ was first termed by the famous 13th-century explorer Marco Polo. It was a corrupted transliteration of Mogadishu, the Somali port with which he confused the island.
2. Madagascar is one of the world’s poorest countries. It is currently ranked 12th poorest according to 2018 GDP per capita based on purchasing power parity (PPP) data.
3. Known as Malagasy, the people of Madagascar are believed to be descendants of Indonesians and East Africans.
4. A 2018 study discovered ‘butchery marks on bones’ that suggests humans may have arrived up to 10,500 years ago – 6,000 years earlier than initially thought.
5. Discounting continental landmasses such as Australia, Madagascar is the world’s fourth-largest island after Greenland, New Guinea, and Borneo.
6. It is also the second-largest island nation after Indonesia. An island nation (or island country) is one whose primary territory consists of one or more islands or parts of islands.
7. Madagascar is a former French colony. The French arrived in force during the 1880s. In 1947 they suppressed an armed rebellion killing thousands.
8. From 1828 to 1861 Madagascar was ruled by Queen Ranavalona I. A brutal and controversial leader, she repeatedly repelled French and European advances on Madagascar but also persecuted Christians, neighboring kingdoms, and political rivals.
9. Following a vote for autonomy in 1958, Madagascar gained independence from France in 1960. Philibert Tsiranana became their first president.
10. Since gaining independence, Madagascar has experienced extensive political instability such as coups, violent unrest, and disputed elections.
11. In 2009 there was another coup that led to Madagascar being suspended from the African Union. Most financial aid to Madagascar was also suspended.
12. The flag of Madagascar was adopted in 1958. The white represents purity, the red symbolizes sovereignty and the green denotes the coastal regions and expresses hope.
13. Despite being geographically closer to Africa, Madagascar was once attached to India in Asia. After the initial breakup of the supercontinent Gondwana approximately 160 million years ago, Madagascar was attached to the Indian subcontinent. Madagascar then separated from India around 88 million years ago and has been isolated ever since.
14. As such, native animals and plants evolved in insulation. As a result, approximately 92% of Madagascar’s mammals, 89% of its plant life, and 95% of its reptiles cannot be found anywhere else on Earth.
15. 5% of all the world’s known animal and plant species can be found in Madagascar. Furthermore, it’s home to the second-highest number of endangered mammals in the world.
16. This all makes Madagascar one of 17 megadiverse countries in the world. Megadiverse countries are the world’s most biodiversity-rich countries.
17. One of the most iconic sights in Madagascar is Allée des Baobabs (Avenue of the Baobabs), a 2km natural avenue lined with baobab trees. The trees are known as renala – ‘mother of the forest’ – in Malagasy.
18. Madagascar’s most famous animal is the lemur. There are at least 100 species and subspecies of lemur in Madagascar.
19. Moraingy is a traditional martial art of Madagascar. The bare-knuckle fighting sport takes place in outdoor rings between two opponents.
20. Madagascar is famous for its vanilla. It supplies around 80% of the world’s natural vanilla, which accounts for 25% of the country’s exports.