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Madagascar, or the Republic of Madagascar (older name Malagasy Republic, French: République malgache, Malagasy: Repoblikan'i Madagasikara [republiˈkʲan madaɡasʲˈkʲarə̥]), is an island nation in the Indian Ocean off the southeastern coast of Africa. The main island, also called Madagascar, is the fourth-largest island in the world.

Most archaeologists believe Madagascar was first inhabited sometime between 300 BC and 500 AD, by Austronesian peoples arriving on outrigger canoes from Borneo and Sulawesi in the Indonesian archipelago. Soon afterward, Bantu migrants crossed the Mozambique Channel and the population of the island began to mix. Later Arab and East African migrants were added to the mix. Madagascar was ruled by the local Merina kingdom in the 19th century and was part of the French colonial empire from 1890 to 1960, when the current Republic of Madagascar became independent.

Malagasy, the local language spoken by the majority of the population, is an Austronesian language and one of the official languages. The other official languages are French, official since independence, and English, official from 2007 to 2010. English was removed as an official language from the constitution approved by voters in the November referendum 2010. These results are not recognized by the political opposition or the international community, who cite lack of transparency and inclusiveness in the organization of the election by the High Transitional Authority.[4]

The primary religions are Malagasy mythology and Christianity but adherents to other faiths, Islam in particular, are to be found throughout the country.

Madagascar is home to as many as 12,000 of the world's plant species.[5] Approximately 80% of all plant and animal species found in Madagascar are endemic and found nowhere else on Earth, including the lemur infraorder of primates, the carnivorous fossa, three bird families and three of the island's six baobab species.[6]


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