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The Gap Year Blog

Things You Did Not Know About Madagascar

21 May 2019 17:10 PM

With 226,917 square miles Madagascar is the 4th largest island in the world Greenland, New Guinea and Borneo and bigger than Spain or Germany! It has a big population and is denser populated than Greece and has only been colonised around 500AD. As that would not be enough about Madagascar, the island has more stunning facts and features to impress us. 

1. The secret of a lemur's tail

Lemurs are cute, aren’t they? They are one of the main reasons that people come to Madagascar. The Verreaux’s Sifaka Lemur is just one of the 105 (sub-)species of lemur that can be found on the island. This one is an especially cute one. It also known as the dancing lemur because the way it moves on the open ground is as elegant as watching a ballet performance. It has a black face and a white body, slightly webbed hands and feet and a very long tail which they cover in smelly secretions during mating season to outstink their rivals. The long-tailed lemur is the most famous one for its long, black and white ringed tail. 

Another popular and amazing lemur fellow is the aye-aye lemur. It is known for its long middle-finger (It definitely would have been a good E.T. with that). That thin long finger with its extra digit looks a but scary to be honest. It is understandable that the locals came up with different scare stories about it. Some believe that the aye-aye lemur sneaks into human homes at night and uses its skeletal finger to pick at the hearts of their victims. Other believe that it can curse a person by pointing at them. 

2. More than 20 ethnic groups unified by one language 

But not forget lemurs, Madagascar is home to about 5 percent of the world’s plant and animal species of which 80 percent are endemic including seven types of baobab trees. The paradise and biodiversity could be maintained because of Madagascar’s demographic isolation to the mainland. That isolation also means that the more than 26 million inhabitants do not regards themselves as African.  Although Madagascar belongs to the African Union, the island was settled by migrants from Indonesia and Malaysia more than 1.500 years ago. 

The island has more than 20 distinct ethnic groups (depending on which scientist you ask). The different cultures and tradition peacefully co-exist alongside each other and slowly diffused over time. Today you can distinct between the people that live in the coastal areas and the ones living in the highlands in the island centre. All ethnic groups speak one common language, Malagasy. 

3.  Fihavanana - the Malagasy philosophy

Even though they are diverse, the ethnic groups are tightly connected by the concept of “Ny Fihavanana no talohan’ny vola”, which Wikipedia loosely translates as “the relationship is more important than the money”. That is common sense amongst the island inhabitants. Kinship, friendship and goodwill are more important than materialism. Accordingly, genuine and welcoming are the Madagascans. 

4. Madagascar is poor, very poor

Did you know? Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in Africa. It has the sixth highest rate of malnutrition in the world with more than half of all children under the age of five suffering from chronic malnutrition. It is also one of the least developed countries in the world which preserves its unique and natural biodiversity and habitat but also leaves rural regions with no water access or very bad quality drinking water. Because of the enormous disparity between urban and rural communities about 66 percent of people in urban areas have access to safe water but for around 15 percent it is virtually impossible to access.

Agriculture is the main source of income for the Madagascans. But because of its location and regular natural disasters, the island and the agriculture are vulnerable. In 2016 rice production, for example, fell by 20 percent which lead to significant price hikes. 

By Desiree Schneider - Online Journalism Intern

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