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AN OVERVIEW OF MADAGASCAR for Kids


NASA satellite image of Africa. Madagascar is outlined in red.
[click image to enlarge]
Madagascar is an island located off the eastern coast of southern Africa in the Indian Ocean. As the world's fourth largest island, Madagascar is a little larger than France but slightly smaller than Texas.

Madagascar has been isolated from Africa for over 150 million years. For this reason, most of the plants and animals found on the island exist nowhere else on Earth.

Because of its remoteness, Madagascar was not settled by humans until around 2.000 years ago. The Malagasy -- the name for the people of the island -- are descended from Indonesians who made their way across the Indian Ocean. Arabs and Africans arrived later and made important contributions to the unique cultural practices found on the island.

After a period marked by the presence of pirates along the eastern coast, Madagascar was colonized by the French in the late 19th century. Madagascar won its independence in 1960 and today is a democratic state.

Madagascar Wildlife

About 75% of Madagascar's species are endemic, meaning they live nowhere else in the world. The island is home to strange animals including lemurs (a group of primates), tenrecs (similar to spiny hedgehogs), brightly colored chameleons, the puma-like fossa, and a variety of other creatures. Sadly, due to habitat destruction and hunting, many of Madagascar's unique animals are today threatened with extinction.



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© Rhett A. Butler / wildmadagascar.org 2008