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Ecosystems

Wildlife of Madagascar

Red ruffed lemurRed ruffed lemurMadagascar is a large island (the world's fourth largest) lying about 400 kilometres (250 miles) off the coast of southeast Africa. About 88 million years ago, the island of Madagascar separated from the west coast of India as the vast supercontinent of Gondwana gradually broke apart. Madagascar's plants and animals continued to evolve there in isolation from the rest of the world. Today, around 90% of its many thousands of species are found nowhere else on Earth: they are known as endemic species. As a result of deforestation—causing loss of habitat—and hunting, some of Madagascar’s animals, including most of its species of lemur, are critically endangered.


Satellite photo of MadagascarSatellite photo of Madagascar

Habitats

A ridge runs north-south through Madagascar. Between it and the eastern coast lies much of the island's remaining tropical lowland forest. To the west of the ridge, there is a central plateau where most of Madagascar's population, the Malagasy, lives. Here there are terraced rice fields lying between grassy hills and small patches of forest that once covered the region.

To the west and south of the central highlands, the land slopes gently down to the coast. Here, where the climate is much drier, there are dry forests and scrublands.
Dry forest in southwestern MadagascarDry forest in southwestern Madagascar

Ring-tailed lemurRing-tailed lemur

Lemurs

Chameleons are each born with an individual “palette” of colours they can change into—the selection is not unlimited.

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