It’s time to get out your globe! You need to know about the imaginary lines on globes and maps.
These lines are called lines of latitude and longitude, and they tell a pilot or ship’s captain exactly where in the world a certain place is located. Basically, latitude lines (also called parallels) are the horizontal lines on your map. Lines of longitude (also called meridians) are the vertical lines that run from the North Pole to the South Pole. This mapping system is written in degrees and uses the symbol °. Get ready to travel the world!
If you take out your globe and locate longitude 47° E, latitude 20º S, you will find the country of Madagascar. You’ve probably seen the movie, but what do you really know about this island nation?
Madagascar is technically in Southern Africa, but it is an island in the Indian Ocean. It is located to the east of Mozambique and is about twice the size of our state of Arizona. In fact, it is the world’s fourth-largest island!
The island has coastal plains with tropical climates, but also a high plateau and mountains in the center of the island.
The climate inland is temperate (not extremely hot or cold) and arid (or dry) in the south part of the island. The island is home to inactive volcanoes. From January to March, some areas get extremely heavy rainfall and sometimes experience cyclones (hurricanes).
The Malagasy people come from Malaysian, Indonesian, Arab and African heritage. There are also French, Indian, Creole and Comorian ethnic groups. French and Malagasy are the official languages, but many people speak English as well. Madagascar became a French colony in 1896. It regained its independence in 1960 from France and celebrates Independence Day on June 26.
Madagascar is an amazing island, with some of the planet’s most unique flora and fauna. There are more than 250,000 species there, and 70 percent of those are endemic — which means they are not found anywhere else on Earth. Madagascar is home to more than 12,000 plant species – and up to 80 percent of those are endemic. Some of the plants are quite amazing! The Madagascar rosy periwinkle is even used to make a cancer-fighting drug.
More than 70 different varieties of lemur live in Madagascar. It is also home to both the world’s smallest and largest chameleons! And, half of the world’s 150 species of chameleons live in Madagascar. It is believed to have more than 300 species of frogs — and 99 percent of those live only in Madagascar! But, there are no toads, salamanders or newts. Hmmm — what a strange but wonderful place!
Agriculture, including fishing and forestry, is the main producer of revenue for the country. Most of the people, up to 80 percent, work in agriculture.
However, deforestation is also one of the main concerns for the country. Conservation efforts to save the forests are important to protect the amazing and varied wildlife that are native to Madagascar.
Sources: “Madagascar,” CIA – The World Factbook, www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ma.html; www.Wildmadagascar.org.