Madagascar: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Madagascar.

  • Madagascar is a large island located in the Indian Ocean off the coast of east Africa. It is the fourth largest island in the world and measures about 593,000 square km.
  • Because the island has been isolated from other continents for a long time, it has many unique plants and animals. About 90 percent of its species are found only on Madagascar.

  • It is often called the Red Island, because of the colour of its soil.
  • About half of the island is covered in forest, and the interior is mountainous.
  • Madagascar is the largest producer of vanilla in the world. Sugar cane, bananas and coffee are also produced there, and major industries include glassware, paper production and car assembly.
Flag of Madagascar
The flag of Madagascar
  • Madagascar has three official languages, Malagasy, French and English.
  • The island’s name may have been based on the Somalian city of Mogadishu, which the explorer Marco Polo thought was Madagascar.
  • The island probably broke off from the African continent about 160 million years ago. It is thought to have been one of the last large landmasses on Earth to be inhabited by humans.
  • Although it is close to Africa, there are no lions, tigers or hippos on Madagascar. Small hippos, known as pygmy hippos, lived there about 1,000 years ago before becoming extinct.
  • Over 30 species of chameleon and over 30 different species of lemur live on the island. Lemurs are related to apes and monkeys and can leap distances of up to 8 metres.
  • There are several religions on the island, although over half of the Madagascan people follow animist beliefs. They believe that all animals and plants, and even trees and rocks have a spirit.
  • Many people in Madagascar still use an ancient astrological system devised by the Arabs. It is used to determine the best day for weddings, anniversaries and other special occasions.