In many ways, being in Madagascar is like being in a completely different world. After all, as an isolated island in the middle of the ocean, it is normal to feel cut off from the rest of the world. But all this isolation has also created a paradise where unique plants and animals can thrive. In fact, very few places on earth are as biologically significant as Madagascar.
History Of Madagascar
For about 80 million years, this island has been separated from bigger landmasses. This isolation has allowed the evolution of different species so that 90% of the wildlife in Madagascar is unique. This means you will not see them anywhere else (unless they are in a zoo). When you come for a visit, there are more than 340 species of reptiles, as well as more than 6,000 plant and tree types endemic to the area.
Considering that Madagascar is the world’s fourth-largest island, there is truly a lot to explore. Even scientists are discovering new species daily.
Animals To See
The most famous resident of this huge island is the lemur but what many do not know is that there are almost 100 species of lemur living in Madagascar. Their name comes from lemures, the Roman word for ghosts because they are slow and are night active. The most popular is the dancing lemur, with their white bodies and black faces, plus the slightly webbed hands and feet and the long tail. They live mostly in trees and can only go around by jumping.
Another popular animal is the bug-eyed aye-aye, a very rare and strange-looking lemur that looks somehow like a cross between a small monkey and a rodent with a huge thyroid. Adding to their bizarre appearance is the spindly middle finger that is able to rotate 360 degrees. It is used to dig worms and other food out of tree holes. While it looks interesting, the locals think of it as a bad omen.
Even the tiny insects living on the island can be quite strange or scary. They have the hissing cockroach and the Dracula ants. Interestingly, the latter have a queen that cannibalizes off of its young.
Plants That You Should Not Miss
The diversity is not only limited to the animals; plant life in this island is just as unique. The most popular is the baobab, which is considered the weirdest looking tree on the whole planet. There are only 2 species of it outside of Madagascar, while this island has 7. They look fatter at the bottom and turn very thin at the top (like roots), quite the opposite of how normal trees look. However, they are a huge source of food and wood for the locals, so they are held in high regard here. Some are even considered religious or magical.
Madagascar is also the world’s biggest producer of vanilla, though it is not native to the island.
A trip to Madagascar is not complete without exploring its unique and wide diversity of plants and animals. It is proof of what happens to nature without human intervention. The best part is, there is still so much more to explore as new species continue to be discovered.