Madagascar is the world’s fifth largest island and second largest island country. It was the last major habitable land mass to be settled by humans. It has many plant species, genera and even families that grow nowhere else on earth. Madagascar also has many unique native terrestrial mammal species. These include such fascinating and endearing creatures as lemurs. The exact number of lemur types isn’t known, as new ones are regularly discovered. However, 86 have so far been described. The smallest is the tiny Madam Berthe’s Mouse Lemur, the world’s smallest primate at about 30 grams. The largest is the Indri, one of the largest living lemurs, that can weigh in at 9.5 kilogrammes. Chameleons, meanwhile, can be as small as your little fingernail or as big as a kitten. Many do change colour, although not as dramatically as the cartoons would suggest. The Leaf-Tailed Gecko is possibly the world’s most perfectly camouflaged lizard. Until it moves you won’t believe it’s there. Madagascar is the land of the world’s largest moth, the Comet Moth, that can measure 20 centimetres from antennae to tail. There is the Tomato Frogwhich, whenthreatened puffs up its body. When a predator grabs a tomato frog in its mouth, the frog’s skin secretes a thick substance that numbs the predator’s eyes and mouth. This causes it to release the frog to free up its eyes.The Giraffe-Necked Weevil has a neck five times longer than its body.
Madagascar’s amazing landscapes vary markedly from the dry canyons and buttes of Isalo National Park to the pristine rainforests of Maroantsetra. Maroantsetra has orchids and giant bamboos eaten by Madagascar’s equivalent of China’s Panda, the Bamboo Lemur. This land’s unique plants and animals are not its only fascination. The history, culture and customs unique to the Malagasy people will fascinate all who experience them. Its population is ethnically extremely diverse, with East African, South East Asian, Indian, Arab and European ancestry.
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