79 thoughts on “Madagascar Updates: Chapters 1-6

  1. Operation Fistula is a registered charity that works in over 20 countries to revolutionise care for women suffering obstetric fistula – a devastating child birth injury that leaves women incontinent. It was founded in 2008 and established a local entity in Madagascar in 2019, where they currently have a team of 18 based at their Antananarivo office. They have a deep partnership with the Ministry of Health, and are in a global partnership with UNFPA to scale its mixed model of community and national-level capacity-building – funding surgeries and other care interventions for women – while ensuring quality case management using data collection and analytics. Since 2020, OpFistula has have provided life-changing surgery to over 4,000 women. They always welcome donations made through our website, as well as items of women’s clothing, unopened personal hygiene products, and cosmetics. Contact them to enquire about volunteering opportunities. Contact: email info@opfistula.org; web opfistula.org.

  2. A year-long ban on flights originating in South Africa entering Malagasy airspace – which had been imposed ever since the end of the 20-month closure of Madagascar’s borders for Covid – has at last been lifted. The political spat apparently centred on disagreements between the two countries regarding measures to curb the smuggling of gold out of Madagascar. Now that permission has once again been granted, it is expected that Airlink will operate a daily flight between Johannesburg and Antananarivo. This will begin gradually: once a week on Mondays from 30 January, then three times (Tue/Thu/Sat) from 14 February. Airlink will operate its flagship Embraer E-Jet airliners on the route. It is understood that the airline is also interested in resuming its former route between Johannesburg and Nosy Be, but currently has insufficient planes and crews, and so this is not thought likely to be possible until at least next year. In the meantime, some tour operators are petitioning Airlink to divert at least one of its seven Johannesburg–Antananarivo flights per week to Nosy Be.

  3. A new book by anthropologist David Graeber looks at whether the age of reason might trace its roots back to the shores of Madagascar. ‘Pirate Enlightenment, or the Real Libertalia: Buccaneers, Women Traders & Mock Kingdoms in Eighteenth-Century Madagascar‘ will be published on 26 January by Allen Lane (ISBN 978-0-241-61140-1).

  4. Madagascar retains first place among clove-exporting countries, according to the Economic Development Board of Madagascar. With a production of 40,000 tonnes, the country has a 27% market share, earning it US$225 million in the 2022 season. Madagascar has more than 18,000 clove producers across the island, with a cultivated area of some 70,000 hectares, 90% of which is concentrated in the Analajirofo region (which takes its name from the Malagasy word for cloves, ‘jirofo’). The main destinations for clove exports are India, Indonesia and Singapore.

  5. Trails Solidaire de Madagascar are running five trails and ultra-trails on the island this year:
    13-25 May 2023: Le Solimada Trail (1st ed): 6 stages; 124km (runners) or 106km (hikers) solimadatrail.com
    22 Jun-1 Jul 2023: L’Ultramad Madagascar: 4 marathon stages; 156km ultramad.fr
    29 Jul-10 Aug 2023: Le Trail de l’Ile Rouge (7th ed): 6 stages; 125km traildelilerouge.com
    3-15 Sep 2023: Le Mada Nosy Trail: 5 stages; 100km madanosytrail.com
    22 Oct-2 Nov 2023: Raid Madagascar (4th ed): 5 stages; 105km
    Full details and registration at mahayexpedition.com/trails-ultra-trails-madagascar/ or contact mob 034 15 441 23; email contact@mahayexpedition.com

  6. If you buy a local SIM card for your phone (typically no more than 5,000Ar), you can buy data packages of various sizes. These range from a 350MB package with 1 week validity for 3,000Ar to 100GB with 1 month validity for 195,000Ar. For regular users, the 2GB/1wk or 4GB/1mo packages should be more than sufficient, though bigger packages are available for heavier users, of course. The prices quoted here are from Telma, but other operators are similar. At the time of writing, the TelmaNet options are:
    350MB/1wk/3,000Ar (US$0.70/€0.65/£0.55)
    800MB/1wk/5,000Ar (US$1.10/€1/£0.90)
    2GB/1wk/10,000Ar (US$2.25/€2.10/£1.85)
    2GB/1mo/15,000Ar (US$3.40/€3.20/£2.80)
    4GB/1mo/25,000Ar (US$5.65/€5.30/£4.65)
    12GB/1mo/75,000Ar (US$17/€16/£14)
    25GB/1mo/125,000Ar (US$28/€27/£23)
    50GB/1mo/150,000Ar (US$34/€32/£28)
    100GB/1mo/195,000Ar (US$44/€41/£36)

  7. New species of Malagasy frogs continue to be described at an astonishing rate. The total has now reached 400, of which 155 (39%) have been described since 2009! In a paper published yesterday in the journal Megataxa, 20 new species (and four subspecies) of Mantidactylus were described. The work is a culmination of more than three decades of data-gathering and the integration of phylogenomics, archival DNA analysis, morphology, and bioacoustics.
    In 2009, it was thought that the total number of (described and undescribed) amphibian species in Madagascar would turn out to be around 400, but by 2014 that estimate had been revised up to 533. It now seems that even that figure is likely to be surpassed in the next couple of decades of taxonomic work.
    The new species announced yesterday are: M. ambohimitombi marefo, M. ambohimitombi miloko, M. mahery, M. steinfartzi, M. incognitus, M. jonasi, M. katae, M. kortei, M. riparius, M. fergusoni, M. georgei, M. jahnarum, M. marintsoai, M. grubenmanni, M. gudrunae, M. augustini, M. bletzae, M. brevirostris, M. eulenbergeri, M. glosi, M. stelliger, M. manerana, M. manerana fotaka, and M. manerana antsanga.

  8. The Madagascar Net-Casting Spider, formerly Deinopis madagascariensis, is now classified as Asianopis madagascariensis. Full details: Until recently, the Deinopidae family – known as the net-casting or ogre-faced spiders — comprised just two genera, with one representative of each known from Madagascar: Menneus dromedarius (which also occurs in South Africa) and Deinopis madagascariensis (endemic to Madagascar and by far the more common of the two). In 2020, a third genus was created – Asianopis – for three new species from China, with half a dozen other Asian Deinopis species being moved across to join them in that genus. In October this year (2022), a further 24 Deinopis species were moved into Asianopis, including D. madagascariensis. Globally the family now comprises 67 species, of which 33 are Asianopis, 20 are Deinopis, and 14 are Menneus.

  9. Fifteen years on from the last edition of Nick-Garbutt’s Mammals of Madagascar: A Complete Guide, his all-new Handbook of Mammals of Madagascar is about to be released. Bloomsbury Wildlife are due to publish the book in the UK on 5 Jan 2023, with the US edition coming out a few weeks afterwards on 28 Feb from Princeton University Press. The Handbook of the Mammals of Madagascar describes all 217 native species, including bats, tenrecs, mice, lemurs, and a small number of introduced, non-native species. The species accounts are subdivided into sections covering description and identification, habitat and distribution (including distribution maps), behaviour and where to see. Supporting chapters cover the island’s regions and habitats, threats to mammals, conservation and important mammal watching sites; as well as a section on the bizarre extinct mammal fauna. The book is illustrated with almost 400 high-quality colour photographs. ISBN 9781472985934 (UK), 9780691239910 (US).

  10. Perhaps astonishingly for one of the world’s five poorest countries, Madagascar is blazing the way for Africa in neutrino research.
    Miriama Rajaoalisoa became fascinated by particle physics after she attended a 2015 lecture on these mysterious subatomic particles. The scientist giving the talk at the University of Antananarivo was Laza Rakotondravohitra, who five years previously had been one of five Malagasy attendees at the first-ever African School of Physics, held in South Africa.
    After completing his master’s studies in 2012, Rakotondravohitra was accepted as an international fellow at the US Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. He credits the African School of Physics with opening a lot of doors on this incredible journey to such a prestigious position.
    In 2015, Rakotondravohitra contacted his former professor Roland Raboanary at the University of Antananarivo to see if he would be interested in joining Fermilab’s flagship neutrino project, the international Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE). Madagascar soon became the first – and still the only – African country to participate in this cutting-edge research project.
    Rakotondravohitra, who today works as a medical physicist in Texas, is now in the middle of a new big project: creating a lab in Madagascar where students can access resources, such as high-quality computers and a reliable internet connection, to help them carry out their research. He is determined to help more Malagasy students study physics to a high level. Rajaoalisoa is one such student to have benefitted: she is now studying her PhD and is a member of DUNE at the University of Cincinnati.

  11. FAPBM (Fondation pour les Aires Protegées et la Biodiversité de Madagascar) was created in 2005 by the Malagasy Government in collaboration with international conservation organisations WWF and Conservation International.
    FAPBM grants annual subsidies to protected areas to guarantee the sustainable financing of their ongoing work. Instead of disbursing donor contributions directly to the protected area managers, FAPBM invests the capital on the financial markets then disperses the generated revenues to the protected areas. In 2022, FAPBM funded 48 protected areas. In 2023, FAPBM expects to fund around 40% of the annual budget of 62 protected areas. This is planned to increase to 72 (out of a total of 123) areas by the end of 2026, for which it will be necessary to reach US$175 million of capital and raise US$25 million funds.
    The fund will provide secure operating expenses, as well as conservation activities, such as climate change resilience, patrols, ecological monitoring and restoration actions. The annual management cost of all of Madagascar’s terrestrial protected areas is around US$10 per hectare. It is estimated that the Foundation’s capital will generate 3% of revenue annually, thus each US$333 of contributions will fund the protection of one hectare in perpetuity. FAPBM hopes to receive more donations from tourists going forward.

  12. According to an announcement from the Malagasy Presidency, a delegation from the UAE-based Emirates airline is expected to visit Madagascar soon to conduct a feasibility study into launching direct flights between Dubai and Nosy Be. It is understood that the company has called for a commitment to increase hotel capacity and extend other tourism infrastructure as a requirement for its investment in the potential new route. Shortly before the pandemic, Emirates had filed an application with the Civil Aviation Authority of Madagascar to open a new service from Dubai, but until now it was not known if the airline was still interested in pursuing the project.

  13. As part of Madagascar’s protection of natural resources and coastal monitoring, the president yesterday handed over two patrol boats in Nosy Be for the fight against illegal and unregulated fishing. Six such vessels are already operational around the Malagasy coastline (based at Toliara, Morondava, Maintirano, Maroantsetra, Farafangana and Taolagnaro). The project is a cooperation between the Malagasy Government and World Bank in the framework of the SWIOfish2 project, which intends to provide for the acquisition of a further 21 vessels soon.

  14. The quantity of litchis exported from Madagascar has fallen from 24,000 tonnes in 2008 to just 14,500 tonnes last year. Transparency International Initiative Madagascar is examining the reasons for this decline. This year’s harvest is delayed owing to cold weather and lack of rain. Around 90% of Malagasy litchis are sold to European consumers.

  15. Horizontal transfer of genes from one species to another, rather than the usual vertical inheritance of genes by a child from a parent, has long been considered an exceedingly rare phenomenon. It is thought to occur mainly through the medium of parasites and viruses. A recent study has found that a snake gene called BovB has occasionally made the leap into frogs, with researchers identifying that this hotizontal gene transfer has happened once in mainland Africa during the last 50 million years, once in Europe, twice in north America, and three times in South America. But they were shocked to discover that the leap has taken place in Madagascar no fewer than 14 times, with more than 90% of frogs so far sampled from the island possessing the serpentine BovB gene. The reason why Madagascar should be such a hotspot for horizontal gene transfer is so far unknown.
    Read more: https://www.quantamagazine.org/how-genes-can-leap-from-snakes-to-frogs-20221027

  16. The tenrecs are a mammalian family of more than 30 species, all endemic to Madagascar. They are diverse in appearance and lifestyle, variously resembling hedgehogs, shrews, opossums, rats or mice – however, not closely related to any of those groups but rather sharing more of their ancestry with such creatures as elephants, dugongs and aardvarks! The word ‘tenrec’ derives from the French corruption of the malagasy word ‘tandraka’ (the local name for one of the species), which in turn derives from ‘landak’, the Malay word for porcupine.

  17. The giant jumping rat, Hypogeomys antimena, which is endemic to a very restricted range in the west of Madagascar, has been elevated from Endangered to Critically Endangered in its latest IUCN Red List assessment, reflecting the increasing pressures on the forests of Menabe.

  18. Madagascar Airlines has announced that it has signed a lease agreement for an Embraer-190 Type E2, expected to be in service from early next year. The airline aims to have by 2025 a fleet comprising two Embraer-190s, four ATR-42s, and two Boeing 787-900 Dreamliners.

  19. In a speech at an investment event with the Tourism Minister, the President of Madagascar has claimed that the island’s low tourism figures, compared to some other African countries, are due to the “lack of zebras, giraffes and elephants”. He proposed that the solution is to seek investment to build five-star hotels inside Madagascar’s protected areas, and encourage operators to import those kinds of safari animals. The president said that “millions of tourists will come to see those animals in Madagascar”.

  20. Madagascar’s president announced today that reconstruction and surfacing works on national roads RN2, RN4 and the northern half of RN7 will begin this year. The RN2 in particular – which connects the capital city to the island’s main port – is in urgent need of repair.
    The country will be holding presidential elections next year; renovation of transport infrastructure traditionally steps up a gear in Madagascar during the run-up to elections, as incumbent presidents attempt to consolidate their support base.
    Renovation of RN5a has recently been completed and work on RN6 and RN13 is currently under way.

  21. As a result of an increase in the number of accidents, authorities in Madagascar are tightening regulations around scooters and motorbikes driven on the public highway. All two-wheeled motor vehicles, regardless of engine size, will have to be registered and their drivers obligated to carry their licences with them at all times, according to a recent announcement by the Minister of Transport.

  22. Madagascar’s Ministry of Tourism has announced that, for visits of up to 15 days, travellers will no longer need to pay a visa fee to enter the country. (Only a €10 fee for border control formalities is required for such short trips.) The cost of 30-day visas remains at €35, and €40 for 60 days (which can be extended to a maximum of 90 days for around €20).

  23. According to the Soft Power Index 2022, Madagascar is among the top ten most influential African countries. The island nation ranked 94th most influential country globally out of the 120 assessed. According to the British firm Brand Finance that specialises in analysing the values of brands, and publishes the Soft Power Index annually, Madagascar has potential to progress further up the list in the coming years.

  24. Air Madagascar changed the name and logo on its social media accounts this weekend, now presenting itself as Madagascar Airlines to match the website address that they adopted several months ago. For some time, it has been rumoured that the airline intends to recombine its Tsaradia domestic operation with its long-haul services under a new brand, but back in June it was reported that the government had halted these plans. It is said that President Andry Rajoelina stepped in to take personal charge earlier this month.
    The new logo is inspired by the previous design.

  25. It’s just been announced that Madagascar has been selected to host the 19th triennial Africa Scout Conference and the Africa Scout Youth Forum in 2025. The 18th conference was held last week in Nairobi, Kenya.

  26. In herpetological research published today in the journal Zootaxa, eight new species of endemic Lygodactylus gecko have been described from Madagascar – nine if you count L. madagascariensis petteri, which is now recognised as a species in its own right.
    The others are: L. salvi (Sambirano region); L. tantsaha (Montagne d’Ambre); L. roellae (northern Madagascar); L. winki (northern Madagascar); L. ulli (Marojejy Massif); L. fritzi (coastal lowlands in the northern central east); L. hodikazo (known only from a single specimen collected at Tsingy de Bemaraha); and L. hapei (Sambirano region).
    This brings to around 30 the total number of known species of Lygodactylus from Madagascar. Still others have been tentatively identified by scientists studying the group, but more data need to be collected for confirmation before those can be officially described.

  27. Fiona says:

    The new international airport at Ivato has some really super photos on the walls of the departure area – worth allowing some extra time there to browse! At the time of our mid-August departure none of the shopping facilities in the airport were operating (beautiful shopfronts, many packing cases in evidence) but a mobile sandwich/drinks provision was available once through security.

  28. Fiona says:

    Travelling in July/August, our experience has in general been that there is a noticeable – understandable – increase in taxi brousse fares. It could be helpful to add up to 20% to the budget for this travel cost.

  29. An update on northern road conditions following recent reports from various correspondents:
    The RN4 between Antananarivo and Mahajanga remains largely in good condition.
    The RN6, which connects RN4 with Antsiranana (Diego Suarez), is in an abysmal state. Antananarivo to Ambilobe (980km) by taxi-brousse takes around 26hrs.
    Surfacing of the remaining section of the RN5a connecting the SAVA region to RN6 was completed a short while ago. The road is still in very good condition but innumerable police checkpoints and large numbers of cattle in the road can hinder progress. One recent taxi-brousse traveller took 8hrs to travel the 300km from Ambilobe to Sambava.

  30. All international airlines serving Madagascar have now resumed regular scheduled services following the pandemic*.

    The following routes are operating into Antananarivo Ivato Airport:
    • FROM PARIS: Air France (4x per week); Air Madagascar (2x)
    • FROM ISTANBUL: Turkish Airlines (1x)
    • FROM ADDIS ABABA: Ethiopian Airlines (3x)
    • FROM NAIROBI: Kenya Airways (3x)
    • FROM REUNION: Air Austral (7x); Air Madagascar (2x)
    • FROM MAURITIUS: Air Mauritius (4x)

    The following routes are operating directly into Nosy Be Fascene Airport:
    • FROM ADDIS ABABA: Ethiopian Airlines (3x)
    • FROM MILAN: Neos Air (1x)
    • FROM REUNION: Air Austral (up to 4x)
    • FROM DZAOUDZI: Ewa Air (1x)

    The following routes are operating directly into Antsiranana (Diego Suarez) Airport:
    • FROM REUNION: Air Austral (1x)
    • FROM DZAOUDZI: Ewa Air (1x)

    The following routes are operating directly into Toamasina (Tamatave) Airport:
    • FROM REUNION: Air Austral (2x)

    *NB: Airlink is not currently flying to Madagascar as all flights from South Africa are suspended owing to political reasons unrelated to Covid.

  31. As of today, 11 August 2022, there are no Covid requirements for entering Madagascar. The requirements for pre-embarkation and on-arrival tests have been scrapped. There is also no requirement to be vaccinated against Covid to enter Madagascar. This is very positive news for the island’s battered tourism sector. A phased reopening of Madagascar’s borders began in October 2021, with all airlines finally resuming services by July 2022 (except for routes from South Africa, which remain suspended for political reasons unrelated to Covid.)

  32. Telma launched its first commercial 5G network in Madagascar in 2020, making the country one of the first not only in Africa but worldwide to adopt the technology. Even now, two years later, only around 10% of African nations have rolled out 5G networks publicly, with a similar number in a pre-release testing phase. So far in Madagascar, however, the roll-out is still quite limited geographically, with parts of Antananarivo, Toamasina and Mahajanga having been upgraded to this latest generation of mobile technology.

    • The August 2020 launch of commercial 5G services by Telma was ordered to shut down within a month by the regulator, which claimed Telma did not have its permission. Localised trials were permitted soon after but still, more than two years on, no further 5G roll-out has been forthcoming. The country’s Agency for Regulation of Technology and Communication revealed that technical challenges are preventing operators from launching 5G services but insists commercial launches are on the horizon. The regulator explained that interference with neighbouring frequency bands at the 20 trial sites (17 in Tana and the rest in Taomasina) has hampered progress thus far.

  33. According to landing card statistics just released by the Ministry of Tourism, there were 69,383 international arrivals into Madagascar in the first half of 2022, Some 58% were non-residents, of which almost two-thirds stated that the purpose of their visit was tourism. As usual, the predominant nationality of foreign visitors was French followed by Italian.

  34. A new genus of tiny frogs was described from southeast Madagascar in 2019, called Mini in recognition of the Lilliputian scale of these hitherto undescribed amphibians. The scientific names of the genus’s three diminutive members were afforded a trio of whimsical epithets: Mini mum, Mini scule and Mini ature.
    Hopefully they won’t suffer the same fate as the pair of equally offbeat Amazonian butterflies Charis ma and Charis matic, which were reclassified into the genus Detritivora almost as soon as they were first described back in 2002, nor that of Abra cadabra, a bivalve mollusc from the Persian Gulf named in 1957 but later sadly found to be identical to the already existing but drearily named Theora mesopotamica. (At least the party poopers haven’t yet come for Riga toni, a prehistoric fly described in 2013 from Ukrainian amber deposits.)

  35. Brasseries Star Madagascar will no longer be licensed to produce and distribute Coca-Cola products as of next month, according to an announcement released today. Popular brands belonging to Star – which holds a near-monopoly on the island’s drinks sector – include THB, Fresh, Bonbon Anglais, Cristal and Caprice. From 1 July, they will no longer be permitted to continue production of Coca-Cola, Sprite or Fanta. The news had been expected: Africa Intelligence reported last year that the US soft drinks giant was hesitant to renew its deal with Star Madagascar, an offshoot of Castel, and noted that Coca-Cola has also been dissolving several of its other African partnerships in recent months. Some months ago, in anticipation of this change, Star launched an own-Brand cola under the label D’jino.

  36. A new study has found that the number of fires inside protected conservation areas across Madagascar spiked dramatically during the pandemic. The researchers looked at a period of five months during 2020 when lockdowns led to the suspension of on-site management at the reserves. Comparing data for this period to that from the previous decade, they found that the number of fires significantly increased, peaking in June 2020 at 348% of the usual level. Burning rapidly returned to normal levels once lockdowns ended and staff returned to their posts. The Cambridge University-led study was published last week by a multi-national team of scientists from Madagascar, UK, Finland, Denmark and USA.

  37. A new book by primatologist and anthropologist Alison Richard was published last month in hardback, e-book and audiobook formats. It’s called “The Sloth Lemur’s Song: Madagascar from the Deep Past to the Uncertain Present”, and it tells the story of Madagascar as a place of continual change from early prehistory to the present day. The book is shaped by the author’s experiences as a researcher on the island over a timespan of more than 50 years, during which our understanding of plate tectonics, island biodiversity and evolution have themselves evolved significantly.

  38. Direct flights between Australia and Madagascar could soon be a reality, according to an announcement by the Malagasy Transport Minister. “I signed an operating license for an Australian airline yesterday,” revealed Roland Ranjatoelina; “the goal is to revise downwards the price of plane tickets.” The news came as part of a statement about the ongoing phased resumption of routes to Madagascar following the lengthy pandemic border closure. It is not yet known which Australian airline is involved, how regular services could be, or indeed when they might commence. It is most likely that the route would be between Perth and Antananarivo – a distance of some 6,900km, or 80% of the distance from Paris to Antananarivo.

  39. Air Madagascar, the country’s national airline, has had a rather precarious couple of decades since the turn of the millennium. In 1999, they defaulted on repayments to private lenders whose investments had allowed them to expand their fleet from the 1970s onwards. The government’s plans to privatise the airline stalled as a result.
    A political crisis in Madagascar in 2002 led to a 70% drop in passenger numbers and cargo for several months, worsening the airline’s financial woes. In the ensuing turmoil, consultants from Lufthansa were brought in to manage the airline for twelve months. Things began to look up and creditors were persuaded to write off half of the company’s debts in return for a promise of full repayment of the remainder within three years.
    But things did not go smoothly after the Lufthansa contract ended. And by 2011, Air Madagascar had been blacklisted by the EU due to its aging fleet and banned from European airspace. Costly deals were struck with first Atlantic Airways and then Air France to provide third-party aircraft to operate their regular Paris routes.
    There followed several more failed attempts to take the company private. Eventually, in 2018, a strategic partnership was formed with Air Austral – a regional airline based in the neighbouring French island of La Réunion – who acquired a 49% stake in Air Madagascar. A subsidiary airline called Tsaradia was created to operate all domestic flights, while international flights continued under the name of the parent company.
    Almost immediately, Air Austral appeared to have regrets – and after the pandemic hit, they decided to cut their losses and bailed on the agreement barely two years after first signing it. This left Air Madagascar with debts of some US$80 million. In 2021, three of its ATR-72 aircraft were impounded by creditors.
    Around the same time, it was rumoured that the airline would be rebranded as Madagascar Airways, with the Tsaradia subsidiary expected to be merged back into the main company. If or when that will happen remains to be seen. The airline continues to have a very high staff-to-passenger ratio, much to the ongoing irritation of the government. Last month they indicated their intention to purchase a 114-seat Embraer E190 from the Brazilian manufacturer for its domestic and regional routes.

  40. Following a meeting at Madagascar’s Transport Ministry last week, it has been decided to ban wheeled cabin luggage from all flights outbound from Madagascar, reportedly in an effort to combat gold trafficking. Furthermore, laptops will not be allowed in the cabin as it is claimed internal components can be swapped for gold. In recent years, there have been several cases of passengers carrying several kilos of gold being intercepted at various airports around the world, while en route from Madagascar to the Middle East. Even in these cases where the gold was confiscated, it has proven extremely challenging for the Malagasy state to have it repatriated.

  41. The world record for the highest scoreline in footballing history was set in Madagascar on 31 October 2002 when Stade Olympique de l’Emyrne (SOE) were beaten 149-0 by their arch-rivals AS Adema. The extraordinary match was part of a playoff tournament to determine the national championship, the THB Champions League – which SOE had won the previous season.
    Every single one of the 149 goals was an own goal scored by SOE players in protest at a refereeing decision that had angered their coach, Zaka Be. Their opponents stood around looking bemused during the farcical match, and spectators reportedly descended on the ticket booths to demand refunds.
    In the aftermath, the Malagasy Football Federation suspended the coach and several players, and then the federation was itself dissolved by the Ministry of Sport. To this day, SOE holds the Guinness World Record for the most own goals scored in a professional football match.

  42. In 2020, the ethical chocolate brand MIA (Made In Africa) launched a Girls’ Education Fund under its ‘1 for Change’ programme to support vulnerable students. It has been working in partnership with Money for Madagascar, who note that school enrolment has significantly decreased in the country, falling as low as 55% in some areas. Of every 100 children who start primary school only 33 make it to secondary school, while girls are the most impacted by the education crisis in Madagascar as they are the first to be removed from school to assist with domestic chores and to support family income. The first two recipients are secondary students in Antananarivo.

  43. In July 2020, Air Madagascar formally ended its partnership with Air Austral, whose 40% stake returned to government ownership, in a move that had been anticipated even before the pandemic hit. Facing continued financial pressures, Air Madagascar was reported to have accumulated losses of US$70m. In September 2021, three of its ATR-72 aircraft were impounded by creditors with a sole fourth in operation with its domestic subsidiary Tsaradia.

  44. Madagascar was reported in 2021 to be losing each year more than 5,000ha of mangroves which currently cover 236,400ha, mostly on the west coast. The Ministry of Agriculture intends to re-establish 10,000ha by 2023 with World Bank finance of US$3m.

  45. In the rich volcanic soils of central Madagascar’s Itasy province grows a rare and fragrant coffee coveted by bats and humans alike. The bat-nibbled beans are especially coveted. Wild bat spit supposedly gives the coffee a uniquely smooth flavour and longer-lasting aftertaste, sending demand for an already expensive specialty bourbon pointu coffee soaring to nearly €220 /kg – more than 50 times the price of commodity-grade coffee. (Bourbon pointu, or Coffea arabica var. laurina, is a naturally low-caffeine variety that traces its roots to La Réunion.) Madagascar used to produce mainly the lower-quality robusta beans used for instant coffee, but increasingly premium varieties of higher-value arabica coffee are being grown.

  46. A new book A Strange Campaign: The Battle for Madagascar by Russell Philips was published in 2021. It relates to Operation Ironclad in the Second World War when British forces landed on the island in 1942 to help prevent Japan using it as a strategic base to disrupt the supply line to India.

  47. In 2020, a new orchid species from Madagascar was officially named, and described by Royal Botanic Gardens Kew as the ugliest orchid in the world: ‘Most people think of orchids as showy, vibrant and beautiful, but Gastrodia agnicellus is quite the opposite. The 11mm flowers of this orchid are small, brown and rather ugly. After the G. agnicellus is pollinated, the stalks grow, holding the fruits well above the forest floor so that the dust-like seeds can better disperse. The orchid depends on fungi for nutrition and has no leaves or any other photosynthetic tissue. The new orchid has been assessed as threatened, but with a small range occurring within an already protected national park, the plants do have some protection for now.’

  48. In 2020, a new species of huntsman spider was described in Madagascar and named in honour of the climate activist Greta Thunberg – as Thunberga greta – by German arachnologist Peter Jager.

  49. To mark the country’s 60th anniversary of independence, President Andry Rajoelina launched a campaign intended to plant 60 million trees on 40,000ha of land prepared for the purpose and using drones in certain areas. The ambitious project started with 1.2m trees in the district of Ankazobe. USAID has helped with funding, as part of a commitment of $57m to the preservation of forests and biodiversity. In early 2021, the Ministry of the Environment said that 18m had been planted to date on 18,000ha.

  50. The president of Madagascar’s tourism confederation said the sector had lost out on US$500m in revenue in the year 2020 owing to the pandemic. By the middle of that year, the industry confederation reported that 90% of the 300,000 jobs in the tourism sector were technically redundant, with implications for some 1.5m people dependent on an income which had also represented 7% of the country’s GDP.

  51. Two recently described leaf chameleons in the genus Brookesia bring the total number to 31, all endemic to Madagascar. B. tedi was described in 2019 and B. nana earlier this year (2021). The former is from Marojejy and the latter from the Sorata Massif in northern Madagascar.
    B. nana is now thought to hold the title as the world’s smallest chameleon, despite which the males have proportionately rather large genitals.
    According to the latest analysis, B. peyrierasi comes from Masoala, Nosy Mangabe and Makira; B. tristis from French Mountain; B. desperata from Forêt d’Ambre, B. tuberculata from Montagne d’Ambre; B. confidens from Ankarana; and B. micra from Nosy Hara. The name B. minima, formerly considered widespread in the north, is now considered to come from a somewhat more restricted area that includes Nosy Be and nearby parts of the mainland. Another species found from Marojejy up to Daraina is currently referred to B. cf. karchei and may eventually be designated as a new species.

  52. Details of the British Embassy in Antananarivo as of December 2020 (note the change from FCO to FCDO):

    HM Ambassador David Ashley
    Address: Tour Zital, Ravoninahitriniarivo Street, Ankorondrano, Antananarivo
    Telephone: +261 (0)20 22 330 53
    Email: British.EmbassyAntananarivo@fcdo.gov.uk
    Website: gov.uk/world/organisations/british-embassy-antananarivo
    Facebook: facebook.com/ukinmadagascar
    Twitter: @UKinMadagascar
    FCDO travel advice: gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/madagascar

    British Consulate in Toamasina (Tamatave)
    Honorary Consul: Michel Gonthier
    Address: c/o La Ligne Scandinave, BP 18, 2 rue Lieutnenant Bérard, Toamasina
    Telephone: +261 (0)20 53 325 69
    Email: michel.gonthier-honcon@fconet.fco.gov.uk

    Malagasy Embassy in London
    Chargé d’Affaires: Olivia Rakotonirina
    Address: 5th floor, One Knightsbridge Green, London, SW1X 7NE
    Telephone: +44 (0)20 7052 8277
    Email: contact@mdg-london.org;
    Website: mdg-london.org

    In addition to being the official representation of Madagascar in the United Kingdom, the jurisdiction of the London embassy extends to the Republic of Ireland, Finland, Norway and Sweden.

  53. John Grehan, author of ‘The Forgotten Invasion’ about the British invasion of Madagascar in World War II published in 2007, also wrote a 2013 book on the same topic called ‘Churchill’s Secret Invasion: Britain’s First Large Scale Combined Operations Offensive 1942’ (published by Pen & Sword Military).

  54. When using international cards at to withdraw cash from ATMs of BFV banks, there is now a fee of 8,000Ar per withdrawal. At BOA machines, the fee is 10,800Ar per withdrawal. There is usually no local ATM fee for making withdrawals at BMOI, MCB or BNI machines.

  55. Staff at Tsimbazaza Botanical and Zoological Park went on strike today in protest at the recent announcement that the park would be put under the management of Axian Group, in a contract to run for the next 30 years. The move has been widely seen as an act of privatisation or selling-off. The Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research has countered these objections, couching the proposal in terms of a beneficial “collaboration”.

  56. New rules from Madagascar’s Ministry of Economy & Finance regarding bringing cash into and out of Madagascar came into force in July 2021.
    When leaving Madagascar, any sum of cash in foreign currencies greater than 1,000 euros in total value must be accompanied by a certificate (attestation d’allocation) issued by an approved foreign exchange bank. Failure to produce a valid certificate may result in the money being seized. The total amount exported may not exceed 10,000 euros, or equivalent.
    Non-resident travellers arriving in Madagascar must declare quantities of cash being brought in. On departure at the end of their stay, the certificate must be presented to justify the re-export of any unspent currency.
    According to a somewhat self-contradictory report in the Madagascar Tribune, the total taken out of Madagascar by non-resident travellers must not be in excess of 1,000 euros, but we are seeking clarification on this point.

  57. Air Madagascar is soon to rebrand under the name Madagascar Airways. Its subsidiary Tsaradia, created in 2018 to operate the company’s domestic routes, is expected to be remerged into the main brand.

  58. Malagasy language note: “Ohatrinona?” – the expression for “how much is it?” – literally translates as “the equivalent of what?”
    Inona means what; and ohatra means measure/similar/equivalent/example/comparison.

  59. Last month, an extraordinarily long-tongued hawkmoth – whose existence was famously predicted by Charles Darwin – was designated as a species in its own right. Researchers made the announcement after conducting genetic studies and concluding that the moth, now called Xanthopan praedicta, is sufficiently distinct from X. morganii, of which it was previously considered a subspecies.

  60. For anyone wishing to fly a drone in Madagascar, restrictions and regulations apply. Drones up to 25kg are permitted (or 4kg over built-up areas) for appropriate purposes, such as filming, but are not permitted to be flown for purely recreational reasons. You can request an authorisation for using drones in the country from Aviation Civile de Madagascar (ACM): download the form (“Formulaire de demande d’autorisation exceptionnelle d’utilisation d’un aéronef qui circule sans pilote à bord”) from their website at http://www.acm.mg/ . Allow at least 8 weeks to obtain the approval.

  61. A new species of leaf chameleon, Brookesia nana, was described in 2021. It brings the total number of species in the genus to 31, all endemic to Madagascar and around a quarter of which have been described since 2000. The new species comes from the rainforest floor in the Sorata Massif of northern Madagascar.

  62. New research has resolved a long-standing controversy about an extinct ‘horned’ crocodile that likely lived among humans in Madagascar. Based on ancient DNA, the study shows that the horned crocodile was closely related to ‘true’ crocodiles, including the famous Nile crocodile, but on a separate branch of the crocodile family tree. The study contradicts recent scientific thinking and also suggests that the ancestor of modern crocodiles likely originated in Africa.
    “This crocodile was hiding out on the island of Madagascar during the time when people were building the pyramids and was probably still there when pirates were getting stranded on the island,” said lead author Evon Hekkala, an assistant professor at Fordham University and a research associate at the American Museum of Natural History. “They blinked out just before we had the modern genomic tools available to make sense of the relationships of living things. And yet, they were the key to understanding the story of all the crocodiles alive today.”

  63. Six new species of coffee (Coffea) have recently been formally introduced to the world of science, bringing the global total count of recognised coffee species to 130 – fully half of which come from Madagascar. The six new species are endemic to the forests in the north of the island and four of them are thought to have very localised distributions.

  64. ShopRite announced in August 2021 that it is pulling out of Madagascar, where it currently operates ten supermarkets. The South African chain, which has been present in Madagascar for almost two decades, blamed the withdrawal on negative sales growth over the past year. French supermarket chain Super U has since confirmed rumours that they have agreed to purchase the chain, which is expected to be rebranded in 2022.

  65. Although it has long been known that there are several variant forms of Madagascar’s emblematic traveller’s palm, they have until now always been treated as a single species, Ravenala madagascariensis. But a new study published in Nature this week has split that into six distinct species. R. madagascariensis remains the name of those typically found along the east coast, while five new species have been added: R. agatheae (northwest), R. menahirana (northeast), R. hladikorum, R. blancii and R. grandis (the last three from the highlands).

  66. Palaeontologist Aro Rakotondrabao is currently creating an outdoor museum about 65km west of Tana at Ambatolevy, at the site of a former vazimba settlement, where the villages continue the tradition of lamb sacrifice.

  67. As of yesterday, 15 November 2018, the option to obtain a 90-day-duration visa on arrival has been suspended. Now it has been confirmed that only 30-day (€35) and 60-day (€40) tourist visas are obtainable on arrival at Ivato Airport in Madagascar.
    Border police at the airport are vague about the reasons, saying only that it is a “government decision”. The fact that this change has happened without warning, and without any official announcement from the tourism ministry or tourist office, is leading some to suspect that the reasons for the suspension may have some shady connection to the currently ongoing presidential elections, in which case we may expect the 90-day visa to be reinstated in due course. For now, there is no official word on the reason for or duration of the suspension.

  68. When buying fossil ammonites and nautilus as souvenirs, you must ensure to get a receipt from the seller. Be aware that, before leaving the country, it is necessary to take the receipt to the Ministry of Mines desk in Ivato airport to receive an export authorisation. The desk is usually unmanned, but the telephone number of the officer on duty should be displayed at the desk so that they can be summoned. There is no cost for the authorisation document. Attempting to pass through the customs checks, where all baggage is scanned, without an authorisation paper is likely to result in the fossils being confiscated or a bribe being demanded. Note that there is a limit of three ammonite or nautilus fossils per person, although there is some flexibility in this and more pieces may be permitted if they are not too large. Quantities deemed to be commercial are not permitted.

  69. The octopus tree family, Didiereaceae, formerly comprised 11 species that are all endemic to Madagascar. However, following some recent taxonomic revisions, the family now also includes nine further species from the African mainland.

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