MadagascarCopyright: Andriambolantsoa Rasolohery 123rf.com

Madagascar

Capital: Antananarivo
Currency: Malagasy ariary
Language: Malagasy - French
Listen to the national anthem

Humans landed on the island that was once a part of Africa only 2,000 years ago and still retains around 90% of the forest. This early arrival of humans may also be the reason that Madagascar is so unique. There are an estimated 250,000 different species that thrive on the island and are unique to it. It is estimated that 90% of the 14,000 different plants are also found nowhere else but on Madagascar, an island less than 600,000 km2 (373,000 miles2)! The Lemur too is found nowhere else in the world and is revered and protected by the natives.

LemurCopyright: Pierre-Yves Babelon 123rf.com

Like other islands on the planet such as New Zealand, Australia and the Galapagos, life has been undisturbed for millions of years and as the islands broke away from the mainland life evolved at a different speed. With the lack of predators came a vast diversity, until humans came onto the scene. Madagascar has its own tale of extinction caused by human Elephant BirdCopyright: Public Domain Wikimedia Commons The Elephant Bird became extinct around the 17th and 18th centuries. The Elephant Bird was the heaviest of birds at around 400 kg (nearly half a tonne) and as a result it was flightless.

In 1960, Madagascar became an independent country after French governance since 1895. Before the French took control the island was ruled by Queen Ranavalona III who ruled between 1883 - 1897. After a brief fight that was one sided, Queen Ranavalona was forced to relinquish the island to the French and was subsequently exiled to the French island of RĂ©union.

The island of Madagascar is the fourth largest in the world and due to the immense variety of unique bio diversity, the island has been referred to by some scientists as the "eighth continent".

Madagascar is a very rich and vibrant land supplying the world with over half of it's sapphires as well as being the main supplier of vanilla and cloves. Coffee, lychees and shrimps are also produced. With all this wealth it is a shock to know that in real terms the country is relatively poor with around 70% of the 22 million or more living below the national poverty line of US$ 1 per day.

The national sport of Madagascar is rugby. Madagascan's also enjoy more traditional games such as Moraingy which is a popular type of hand - to - hand combat and tolon - omby which is the sport of wrestling the zebu cattle! A more sedentary past time called fanora is a common board game.

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