More on Madagascar
The ancestors of the iconic lemurs floated across the Mozambique Channel about 60 million years ago. Today, there are about 100 species or subspecies of Lemur in Madagascar, many of which are highly endangered.
Madagascar was settled by humans 2000 years ago. The earliest settlers are thought to have arrived in outrigger canoes from southern Borneo, with African settlers crossing the Mozambique Channel about 1000 years ago. Today, the genetic influence of both the Indonesian and African ancestors can be seen in much of the Malagasy population of 22 million. The Malagasy language is of Malayo-Polynesian origin. The predominant diet consists largely of rice, and much of the native rainforest has been destroyed in order to create rice paddies. It is estimated that 90% of Madagascar’s original forests have been lost.
Madagascar achieved independence from France in 1960.
RANOMAFANA NATIONAL PARK
Located roughly 200 miles (or a 10 hour drive) to the south of the nation’s capital, Antananarivo, Ranomafana National Park (RNP) was created in 1991 as the fourth National Park in Madagascar and covers 106,000 acres of high-altitude bamboo rainforest. It is now part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site: Rainforests of the Atsinanana. The creation of RNP was championed by anthropologist Dr. Patricia Wright following the discovery of the greater bamboo lemur, which had been thought to be extinct. At least 13 species of lemur are now known to live within RNP, as well as a multitude of other animals including beetles, frogs, and chameleons. Adjacent to the park is the Centre ValBio research station run by Dr. Wright, which offers facilities for visiting scientists from around the world.