Page 10 - Lifestyles in Palm Beach Gardens - June '22
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Page 10, Lifestyles in Palm Beach Gardens
      Madagascar: The Remains Of Another World

      By Don Kiselewski, MCC,
      D.S., Palm Beach Gardens
      Travel Leaders
        The character of
      Madagascar has always been
      an enigma. Great portions of
      its fauna and flora are found
      no other place in the world. It
      is as if the world had started
      on this island before it broke
      away from Africa, and not
      everything got off to propagate
      throughout the world when it was split from the mainland.
        The word “unique”                                A field of baobab trees
      finds true meaning because                                                                           A view of Antananarivo, capital city of Madagascar
      of what  remains  of  the                          common ancestor of monkeys, apes and humans. These
      diversity of nature that                           squirrel-size creatures scurry about the subtropical forest
      has been bestowed on this                          of Madagascar, as they have for the past 50 million years.
      island in the Indian Ocean.                        Interestingly, Madagascar was never inhabited by monkeys,
      A quarter of a million                             yet lemurs have developed a monkey’s way of life. The island
      square  miles  make  up  the                       of Nosy Komba is known as Lemur Island and has become
      land surface of Madagascar.                        an attraction for those who wish to observe these animals in
      It split away from Africa                          a controlled wildlife environment.
      165 million years ago, and                           Another creature of Madagascar is the fossa, which is a
      is now separated from the  A bright-eyed lemur     carnivorous mammal related to the catlike civit, and is about
      continent by 300 miles at                          the size of a sheepdog. There are also more than 800 species
      its closest point.                                 of butterflies on the island and the spiny globefish (also known
        Located about as far south                       as the puffer fish or porcupine fish) is found in the waters here
      of the equator as Florida is                       as well. The most dangerous animal that inhabits Madagascar   A typical fishing village on the island of Nosy Komba, which
      north, Madagascar’s landscape                      today is the crocodile. It is difficult to classify the danger that   is also home to countless lemurs
      is made up of ridges, valleys,                     may have existed in the past. Many of its larger animals, such
      tropical forests and rivers.                       as the aepyornis (elephant bird), the world’s largest known   thought that perhaps a strange climatic condition aided in their
      Each of the many areas on                          bird, disappeared in a wave of extinction ending some 500   demise; another El Niño perhaps? Nonetheless, the demands
      the island differs in climate. A                   years ago. Eggs of these birds are still occasionally found   of the impoverished people have continued to overpower
      backbone of mountains stretch                      along stream beds after heavy rainfalls, having been washed   Madagascar. Within the last 50 years the island has lost over
      down the length of the island                      out from deep in the natural forests.             50 percent of its forest.
      and Mount Maromokotro,                               The island was probably visited during the first century     Madagascar was one of the first entries on my wish list
      located in the north, is the                       by Indonesians. In the seventh century, the Arabs established   of places in the world that I had always wanted to visit, ever
      island’s highest at 9,435 feet.                    trading posts on Madagascar. The Portuguese arrived around   since my sixth grade geography teacher painted that idyllic
      Rivers flow on the western                         the year 1500 and the French established settlements in the   picture in my mind of what to expect. Perhaps it has been too
      side of the island, and the east                   early 17th century. The French took complete control in 1896,   long since I left the sixth grade or perhaps I hadn’t kept up
      coast lies behind coral beaches                    and it became a French overseas territory until 1958 when it   with this island on the other side of the world. One thing is
      and an almost continuous                           became the autonomous Malagasy Republic. Two years later in   for sure, based upon my visit: I would wager that my teacher
      chain of lagoons that form an                      1960 it was proclaimed an independent republic. It is thought   had never visited the island. Needless to say, I didn’t expect
      inland waterway.                                   that because of these relationships, that the Malagasy people   to see the picture of the reality that Madagascar offers today.
        Madagascar is 1,000 miles                        are distinct from those of Africa, and more closely related     Even though organizations such as the World Wildlife
      north to south and 360 miles                       to Indonesians. Subsequently, migrations from the Pacific,   Federation have stepped in, it is believed that it might be
      wide, with a shape that roughly                    Africa and Arab countries have separated Madagascar into   too late for a great number of species that originated in
      resembles a left footprint,  A ring-tailed lemur   18 distinct ethnic groups. Over a quarter of the Malagasy are   Madagascar. One might point their finger at the people and
      without the small                                  Medina, followed closely by Betsimisaraka, the Betsileo and   population explosion. However, do they likewise not have the
      toes making a mark.                                the Tsimihety ethnic groups. There are also small minorities   right to survive as well?
      It has a population                                of Indians, Chinese, French and Comorians. Malagasy is a     Madagascar in a travel destination that would not be for
      of about 28 million                                language of Indonesian origin and it, along with French, is   the majority of our society, but it mustn’t be overlooked.
      people (Source:                                    the official language.                            Scientists, botanists and environmental experts are diligently
      CIA Factbook) and                                    Although the fourth largest island in the world, Madagascar   attacking the problems of today’s interaction of people and
      overpopulation has                                 ranks in the bottom percentile of places tourists seek out for   nature. Hopefully, the Malagasy will be able to maintain an
      been a concern to                                  travel. Why, you might ask? Simply because of the population   environmental status quo and will be successful at turning
      environmentalists for                              explosion that increased today’s population to some almost   things around.
      a long time. More and  The fossa                   28 million inhabitants (Source: CIA World Factbook). Man     Don Kiselewski writes from his personal experiences,
      more of the natural                                continues to take the unique elements from this island. Fifteen   having traveled in 122 countries and cruised the oceans, seas
      environment has been stripped from the island, causing the   hundred years ago when men first started to inhabit the island,   and rivers of the world. Palm Beach Gardens Travel Leaders,
      forests to disappear and the rivers to run red with the soil that   there were countless numbers of one-of-a-kind species of fauna   his family owned and operated agency, is located at Mirasol
      is being carried away from the forested land.      and flora, such as the giant tortoise, pigmy hippopotamus,   Town Square, 11360 North Jog Road, Building A, Suite 102-6,
        The country is the home of some 50 species of lemurs,   giant lemurs and the elephant bird that stood some 10 feet   Palm Beach Gardens. The agency has been serving the travel
      a tree-dwelling, monkey-like animal. Lemurs are primates   high, and has been estimated to weigh nearly a ton. All of   needs of the South Florida area for over a quarter of a century.
      named for the ghosts of the Roman dead said to have roamed   these special creatures started disappearing some 500 years   Contact him at (561) 694-9696 or
      the night. They are the closest living descendants of the   ago, when people started to converge on the island. It is also      Photos by Don Kiselewski

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