Madagascar, or Republic of Madagascar (older name Malagasy Republic, French: République malgache), 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 500-200 AD, by Austronesian peoples arriving on outrigger canoes from Borneo and Sulawesi in the Indonesian archipelago. Soon afterwards, 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 since 2007.
The main religions are Malagasy mythology and Christianity but there also minorities of other religions, most significantly Islam.
Madagascar is home to 5% of the world’s plant and animal species, of which more than 80% are endemic to Madagascar. They include the lemur infraorder of primates, the carnivorous fossa, three bird families and six baobab species.