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Madagascar Facts For Kids

Updated on June 9, 2013
The famous baobab trees in Madagascar.
The famous baobab trees in Madagascar. | Source

Madagascar as a Country

Madagascar is an island nation in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Africa. It is the fourth largest island in the world (after Greenland, Papua New Guinea and Borneo).

In prehistoric times, Madagascar was part of the supercontinent of Gondwana, together with Africa, South American, Australia and India. About 160 million years ago Gondwana began to break up, this resulted in Madagascar separating from Africa. Then, about 88 million years ago Madagascar separated from India.

The first people are thought to have arrived on Madagascar about 2000 years ago from Borneo.

Madagascar became a French colony in 1897. It regained its independence in 1960. Malagasy and French are the official languages of the island.

A markermadagascar -
Madagascar
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The Different Landscapes of Madagascar

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Ring tail lemursThe silky sifaka is one of the rarest mammals on earth.The red-tailed sportive lemur is a nocturnal species found in the Menabe region of Western Madagascar.  It spends the night sleeping in tree holes.Mouse lemurs are amongst the smallest primates on earth.Cocquerel's Sifaka
Ring tail lemurs
Ring tail lemurs | Source
The silky sifaka is one of the rarest mammals on earth.
The silky sifaka is one of the rarest mammals on earth. | Source
The red-tailed sportive lemur is a nocturnal species found in the Menabe region of Western Madagascar.  It spends the night sleeping in tree holes.
The red-tailed sportive lemur is a nocturnal species found in the Menabe region of Western Madagascar. It spends the night sleeping in tree holes. | Source
Mouse lemurs are amongst the smallest primates on earth.
Mouse lemurs are amongst the smallest primates on earth. | Source
Cocquerel's Sifaka
Cocquerel's Sifaka | Source

Unique Malagasy Fauna: The Lemurs

Because of its separation from the continents, animals on Madagascar evolved in isolation. Approximately 90% of Malagasy animals are not found anywhere else on earth. Below are some examples of the fascinating species on the island.

Lemurs are an obvious example of this unique fauna, there are 100 species of lemur on Madagascar, and none outside the island.

These cute, jumping animals are classified as primates, the same order as monkeys, apes and humans.

It is thought that the lack of monkeys on Madagascar has allowed lemurs to thrive and evolve into so many types, since they didn't have any competition.

The sloth lemur was as large as today's gorilla. Sadly it is now extinct and most of the species still alive today are endangered.

These fantastic animals are protected by the Malagasy people. They believe that they carry the spirits of ancestors and have taboos against hurting them, thinking it will bring them terrible luck. Sadly this isn't true of the aye aye, a highly specialised and interesting, but unfortunately ugly lemur.

David Attenborough on Ring Tailed Lemurs

The aye aye is very ugly, but very interesting.
The aye aye is very ugly, but very interesting. | Source

The Aye-Aye, A Very Distinctive Malagasy Lemur

The aye aye is a very specialised lemur, which has adapted to feed on grubs living in trees, in a manner very similar to woodpeckers. It has incisors that never stop growing, like a rodent, a very long and thin middle finger, and huge, sensitive ears.

To find food the aye aye taps a tree with its long finger and listens to the echoes. Changes in sound indicate hollow channels, inside the trunk or branch, and rustling sounds could be from a worm moving inside. Once it has determined that a fat juicy grub is inside the tree, it gnaws a small hole in it. It then uses its very long finger, clawed finger to pull the grub from inside the wood.

Unfotunately, the aye aye is not the prettiest of primates. Perhaps because of its ugly looks the Malagasy fear it, believing that it is a demon and brings terrible luck. If they come across the poor animal, they kill it and hang it outside their town, so passerbys take the bad luck away.

The Aye Aye in Action

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The extremely colorful panther chameleon is only found in Madagascar.  There are different color forms depending on the locality.Parson's chameleon, the biggest chameleon known to man is a Madagascar native.Brookesia are the smallest known chameleons.My klemmeri day gecko was born in Germany, but the species is a Madagascar native.
The extremely colorful panther chameleon is only found in Madagascar.  There are different color forms depending on the locality.
The extremely colorful panther chameleon is only found in Madagascar. There are different color forms depending on the locality. | Source
Parson's chameleon, the biggest chameleon known to man is a Madagascar native.
Parson's chameleon, the biggest chameleon known to man is a Madagascar native. | Source
Brookesia are the smallest known chameleons.
Brookesia are the smallest known chameleons. | Source
My klemmeri day gecko was born in Germany, but the species is a Madagascar native.
My klemmeri day gecko was born in Germany, but the species is a Madagascar native. | Source
Source

Lizards and Frogs Found Only In Madagascar

It's not just the mammals of Madagascar that are unique and fascinating. Some of the most beautiful reptiles and frogs are only found on the island.

Take for example chameleons, a family of very specialised lizards. Nearly half of the 160 known species of chameleon are found only in Madagascar.

These include the stunningly colourful Panther chameleon, which exists in several different colour morphs depending on the location in which it is found. Parson's chameleon, the world's largest, and the tiny brookesia are also only found on the island.

The variety of Malagasy gecko species is also quite amazing. Many of the species of the brightly coloured day geckos, two of which I keep as pets, are found there. I've also always had a soft spot for leaf tailed geckos. Because of their wide tail, serrated shape and colours, they are almost impossible to spot when they are resting on a tree.

Mantella frogs are also only found on the island. They are poisonous and advertise it with very bright colours. In this they are the Malagasy equivalent of the poison dart frogs of Madagascar.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The lined leaf gecko presumably chooses tree branches that match its pattern when it wants to sleep.The mossy leaf gecko is perfectly camouflaged when it closes its eyes.I think this giant leaf gecko is angry.
The lined leaf gecko presumably chooses tree branches that match its pattern when it wants to sleep.
The lined leaf gecko presumably chooses tree branches that match its pattern when it wants to sleep. | Source
The mossy leaf gecko is perfectly camouflaged when it closes its eyes.
The mossy leaf gecko is perfectly camouflaged when it closes its eyes. | Source
I think this giant leaf gecko is angry.
I think this giant leaf gecko is angry. | Source
The orchid flower that produces vanilla pods, one of the main exports of Madagascar
The orchid flower that produces vanilla pods, one of the main exports of Madagascar | Source

Madagascar Vanilla, One of the Main Exports

One of the main exports of Madagascar is vanilla. Strangely the orchid from which vanilla pods are obtained is not native to the island but was originally found in Mexico.

Because it is so difficult to cultivate these orchids, outside of their native habitat they have to be pollinated by hand, vanilla is the second most expensive spice after saffron.

The price of vanilla is very dependent on the weather conditions on the tropical island. When cyclone Hudah disrupted production in the year 2000, the price increased dramatically, reaching $500 per kilogram in 2004. Prices then fell to a far more reasonable $20 per kilogram by 2010.



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    • profile image

      milamk 4 years ago

      good info

    • profile image

      Conner 5 years ago

      hi blake im in your class

    • profile image

      Blakeyboy 5 years ago

      i think its very exiting im doing a school project right now

    • profile image

      Blakeyboy 5 years ago

      that is awesome

    • aa lite profile image
      Author

      aa lite 5 years ago from London

      Thanks karthikkash and hannah. It truly is an amazing country with wonderful animals. I would love to visit it one day.

    • profile image

      hannah 5 years ago

      this is an amazing country

    • karthikkash profile image

      Karthik Kashyap 5 years ago from India

      A very well written and informative hub about Madagascar. Voted up :)

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