Madagascar

Madagascar's towering baobab trees, spiny forests, rare primates and a rich cultural heritage form the island's distinct identity. WWF has been active here for more than 3 decades, working with local communities to protect Madagascar’s unique environment.
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Baobab trees at sunset. Morondava, Madagascar.
© Martin Harvey / WWF-Canon

Where is Madagascar?

Madagascar and surrounding region are highlighted in red.


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Land of the lemurs

Separated from the African continent for millions of years, Madagascar's plants and animals have evolved like nowhere else in the world. So unique that the island nation is often referred to as the 8th continent.
Topping the list of rare and exotic species are the world-famous big-eyed, pointy-nosed primates - lemurs.

Lemurs vary greatly in size, appearance and behaviour - from the tiny pygmy mouse lemur to the large white and black panda-looking indri.

There is the sifaka, known as the "dancing" lemur because of its unusual ballet-like movement when sashaying across open areas, while the ring-tailed lemur is easily recognized by its long, black and white ringed tail.

Some live in the country's moist, tropical rainforests, while others live in dry forests and desert areas.

As diverse as they are, lemurs have one thing in common - they are all in some way in danger of becoming extinct.
Ring-tailed lemurs live in groups of 5-30 members. They have distinct hierarchies that are enforced ... / ©: WWF-Canon / Homo ambiens / R.Isotti-A.Cambone
Ring-tailed lemur. Analamazaotra Special Reserve, Madagascar.
© WWF-Canon / Homo ambiens / R.Isotti-A.Cambone
 / ©: Deutsche Welle
Global Ideas is a series of videos courtesy of Deutsche Welle.
© Deutsche Welle
Global Ideas is a series of videos courtesy of Deutsche Welle. They showcase people and projects whose innovative ideas are helping combat global warming.

International problems, local conservation

 / ©: Edward Parker / WWF-Canon
Andringitra National Park, Madagascar.
© Edward Parker / WWF-Canon
One reason lemurs and other species are so endangered is that their habitats are being cut down at an alarming rate.
Less than 10% of Madagascar's original forest cover exists today. Most has been cleared for agriculture, cattle grazing and firewood.

Many animals and plants are also threatened by the international wildlife trade. Chameleons, geckos, snakes and tortoises are the most targeted.

In an effort to revert the trend of biodiversity loss, WWF is working on a number of conservation efforts, including working with the government to create and expand protected areas.

WWF has been active in Madagascar for more than 3 decades, providing local communities with the support necessary to manage natural resources effectively. Many of the community-based conservation projects focus on sustainable income opportunities such as ecotourism.

When local communities have the responsibility to manage their natural resources, they tend to protect them better and use them in a sustainable way.

Nanie Ratsifandrihamanana, WWF-Madagascar

 / ©: WWF-Canon / Martin Harvey
Endemic to the central eastern forests of Madagascar, Parson's chameleons have seen their numbers decline due to collection for the international pet trade.
© WWF-Canon / Martin Harvey

Facts & Figures

    • At 587,000km2 (226,640 sq mi), Madagascar is the world's fourth largest island - about the size of Texas or France.
    • The island was created when it separated from the Indian subcontinent 80-100 million years ago.
    • 250,000 species are found here, of which 70% are found nowhere else in the world.
    • Of the 50 different kinds of lemurs, 10 are critically endangered, 7 are endangered and 19 are considered vulnerable.
    • Lemurs can also be found on the nearby Comoros Islands.
    • The name lemur comes from the Latin word lemures, which means 'spirits of the night' or 'ghosts'.
    • There are 7 species of baobab trees in Madagascar compared to only 1 in all of Africa.
    • The Toliara coral reef off Madagascar's southwestern coast is the 3rd largest coral reef system in the world.
    • The highest mountain is Maromokotro at 2876m.

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