Day 126: Facts! East African Islands Edition

I don’t know about you, but I’m freezing, so let’s snuggle into the warm comforting arms of interesting facts, as I continue my Wikipedia journey across sunny Africa.

Madagascar (the country, not the kids’ movie) is thusly named because Marco Polo (the explorer, not the kids’ game) confused it with Mogadishu, the Somalian city located over 2,600 kms away. Oops! I love this immensely. Countries are named for some wacky ass reasons, but Madagascar got its name via typo. Outstanding.

– By 88 million years ago the island had broken off from the rest of the continents, leading to two interesting consequences: firstly, a rich, diverse array of flora and fauna were able to evolve completely isolated from the rest of the world and thus remain unique to the island. Secondly, human beings didn’t inhabit the island until about 250 AD at the very earliest, making it one of the last inhabited places on earth. (Naturally, as soon as humans began to live there, they started systematically exterminating all of that unique flora and fauna…)

– Endemism is when a plant or animal is unique to a particular geographical location. I never knew that. Thus as mentioned, 90% of all of the plant and animal species on Madagascar are endemic to that island. The lemur is the most recognisable example, but really there are too many species to name.

Comoros is the only Arab League country wholly situated in the Southern Hemisphere. I think apart from Indonesia it’s probably the most southern Islamic country in the world.

– Since independence from France in 1975, the country has been subjected to almost continual coups d’état and political upheavals. It took until 2006 for there to be a peaceful and proper transfer of power in Comoros. And we add to the list of ex-colonial African nations that experienced political chaos following independence.

– I’m going to be honest. I had absolutely no idea that Mauritius was a British colony. Being so heavily French in culture and language, I naturally assumed it was a French possession. Turns out the British won the islands during the Napoleonic Wars, and allowed the French population, culture and infrastructure to remain in exchange for a swift surrender. How unusually tolerant for a colonial power.

– In 1965 Britain basically sliced off the Chagos Archipelago from the rest of Mauritius, making it part of the British Indian Ocean Territory, or to put it another way, Strategic Islands Britain Didn’t Want To Lose To Independence. They then signed a treaty with the U.S. so they could turn it into a military base and expelled the native population from the islands in order to facilitate it. So, now we’re back to pretty standard colonial power behaviour.

– Mauritius was the home of the dodo before it became extinct. I think we all knew this already, but I’m just throwing it out there. “Dodo” is a fun word to say.

Seychelles is actually the smallest African country by population, with only 90,000 odd people. I love finding out about countries that seem to have less inhabitants than my local council area.

– Like Madagascar, the islands had no indigenous human population and weren’t inhabited until many centuries into the AD. Vasco de Gama was the first European to discover the Seychelles, and naturally named them after himself, the Amirantes Islands meaning islands of the Admiral. At least he did better than Marco Polo and didn’t accidentally name it Somalia.

– An attempted coup d’état (put it on the list…) in 1986 was averted by President René calling India for help, and India launching, I shit you not, Operation Flowers are Blooming. Operation Flowers are Blooming! I can’t stop repeating it because that is undoubtedly the new greatest name for a military operation I have discovered. One of these days I am going to do some research on all of the most ridiculous names for military operations in history. I feel like that would be quite a list. When I stop Wiki-ing random countries that is going to be my next fact-based mission.

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