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Facts About Madagascar For Kids

Madagascar, officially the Republic of Madagascar is an island country in the Indian Ocean, off the southeastern coast of Africa. The nation comprises the island of Madagascar, as well as numerous smaller peripheral islands. Initial human settlement of Madagascar occurred between 350 BCE and 550 CE by Austronesian peoples arriving on outrigger canoes from Borneo. These were joined around 1000 CE by Bantu migrants crossing the Mozambique Channel.

  • The monarchy collapsed in 1896 when the island was conquered and absorbed into the French colonial empire, from which the islandgained independence in 1960.
  • However, in a popular uprising in 2009 the last elected president Marc Ravalomanana was made to resign and presidential power was transferred in March 2009 to Andry Rajoelina in a move widely viewed by the international community as a coup d’état.
  • At 228,900 sq mi, Madagascar is the world’s 47th largest country and the fourth-largest island.
  • Along the length of the eastern coast runs a narrow and steep escarpment containing much of the island’s remaining tropical rain forest.
  • 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, deforested hills.
  • To the west of the highlands, the increasingly arid terrain gradually slopes down to the Mozambique Channel.
  • The combination of southeastern trade winds and northwestern monsoon winds produces a hot rainy season (NovemberApril) 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, where the heavy precipitation supports the area’s rain forest ecosystem.
  • Approximately 90% of all plant and animal species found in Madagascar are endemic, including the lemurs, 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.
  • The island is also home to around 170 palm species, three times as many as are found on mainland Africa; 165 of these are endemic.
  • State-controlled logging of precious woods within national parks, authorized in January 2009 by Ravalomanana, has dramatically intensified under the Rajoelina administration as a key source of state revenues to offset cuts in donor support following Ravalomanana’s ouster.
  • Numerous extinct giant lemur species also vanished with the arrival of human settlers to the island, and today most extant lemurs are listed as endangered or threatened species due to habitat destruction.
  • Probably the descendants of an earlier and less technologically advanced Austronesian settlement wave, the Vazimba were expelled from the highlands by Merina kings Andriamanelo, Ralambo and Andrianjaka in the 16th and early 17th centuries.
  • The written history of Madagascar began with the Arabs, who established trading posts along the northwest coast by at least the 10th century and introduced Islam, the Arabic script, Arab astrology and other cultural elements.
  • Over the course of Rainilaiarivony’s 31-year tenure as prime minister, numerous policies were adopted to modernize and consolidate the power of the central government.
  • The Merina royal tradition of taxes paid in the form of labor was continued under the French and used to construct a railway and roads linking key coastal cities to Antananarivo.
  • Since regaining independence, Madagascar has transitioned through four republics with corresponding revisions to its constitution.
  • The contested 2001 presidential elections in which then-mayor of Antananarivo, Marc Ravalomanana, eventually emerged victorious, caused a seven-month standoff in 2002 between supporters of Ravalomanana and Ratsiraka.
  • During the post-colonial First Republic, a continued reliance on French nationals as teachers, and French as the language of instruction, created tension among those desiring a complete separation from the former colonial power.