The 2003 Dreamworks movie Madagascar had it right: This island is like no place on Earth. Imagine a place filled with small, strange looking creatures roaming a landscape ranging from lush forests to drier, sometimes spiny forests, where giant bottle-shaped trees mark the skyline. This is Madagascar.
Off the east coast of Africa, Madagascar's geographical isolation from the rest of the continent means it is chock full of animals and plants found nowhere else in the world.
Case in point: Madagascar's lemurs. The island is home to more than 103 types of the odd primates, all of which are unique to the country. The indri, for instance, is a panda-colored forest acrobat that catapults itself from tree to tree and screams a high-pitched wail worthy of a humpback whale. The odd-looking aye-aye uses its jaw-dropping features – including bat-like ears, teeth that don't stop growing, and a long, skinny finger – to fill a role as a woodpecker on an island where no woodpeckers exist.
SPECIES: Learn more about Madagascar's unique lemurs and listen to recordings of their calls.
Beyond lemurs, the world's fourth largest island is an enormous living lab. More species of orchids are found in Madagascar than on the entire African mainland. There is a more diverse chameleons population here than anywhere else. Those bottle-shaped trees are called baobabs, and six of the world's eight species are here. Off Madagascar's coast, the Bay of Ambodivahibe is home to several globally threatened species of exceptional fish.
EXPEDITION: CI's Rapid Assessment team spent three weeks exploring ecosystems and documenting species off the Northeastern coast of Madagascar. Follow the expedition through their field dispatches!
Roughly 17 million Malagasy people live and work across this same varied terrain. Their roots in both Africa and Asia mean they are a group as diverse as their surroundings. But people's impact on the land means the curious island is far from pristine. Roughly four-fifths of Madagascar's forests have been stripped bare. At sea, bleached reefs reveal that Madagascar's waters are threatened by climate change. Environmental devastation brings with it health and economic risks for the Malagasy people.
LEARN MORE: Fresh Water for Health
Thankfully, the government of Madagascar has an ambitious vision to make the country's biodiversity the foundation of the nation's wealth. CI remains a committed partner in this process.
Learn more about our work in Madagascar's Makira Forest and Mantadia Corridor.
READ MORE: Andasibe: Madagascar's Forest Gem Works for People