Madagascar through haiku and photography: On World Environment Day 2021, celebrating the biodiversity hotspot

·3-min read

Madagascar is the world's fourth largest island (after Greenland, New Guinea and Borneo) located in the western Indian Ocean. Owing to its unique biodiversity, it is considered as the eighth continent. Geologically, Madagascar broke away from Gondwanaland 167 million years ago and has been isolated from the rest of the world after breaking apart from the Indian tectonic plate about 65 million years ago. Geologists consider the Palakkad gap in the Western Ghats as the place where Madagascar broke away from the Indian plate: The Angavo Entrapment in Madagascar and the Palakkad gap in Kerala fit into each other perfectly.

Madagascar has a diverse landscape with narrow plains in the east, a chain of mountains in the centre and wide plains in the west. Due to its topography, a number of climatic regions exist in Madagascar leading to a very high rate of speciation compared to the rest of the world.

It is believed that the first humans arrived in Madagascar in boats from Borneo, Indonesia about 2000 years ago. Later migrations took place from east Africa, Arabia, India and other parts of the world, giving rise to a diverse population consisting of 18 major ethnic groups. Members of these ethnic groups speak Malagasy, with some regional variations, a rich language full of images, metaphors and proverbs, which is mainly of Indonesian origin, with some words derived from Kiswahili, Arabic and Sanskrit.

Baobab trees. All photos © Abhay K
Baobab trees. All photos © Abhay K

Baobab trees. All photos © Abhay K

Madagascar is a global biodiversity hotspot and its unique flora and fauna is conserved through a network of national parks and protected areas, which consists of over 120 sites. The island has some 13,000 species of flowering plants, out of which 89 percent are endemic. It is also the motherland of baobabs. Out of the eight species of baobabs found worldwide, six are exclusively found in Madagascar. There are over 150,000 species of invertebrates, around 300 species of butterflies out of which 211 are endemic to Madagascar, 283 species of birds, 51 percent of which are endemic species and over 110 species of lemurs from pygmy mouse lemur weighing only 25 grams to Indri Indri, the largest surviving lemur, which are only found in Madagascar.

I arrived in Madagascar in March 2019 and instantly felt its magic with multiple enlightenments taking place within me while waking up with birdsong, looking at mynahs, hoopoes, black Vasa parrots, red fodies, yellow wagtails, green geckos, colour changing chameleons, butterflies and dragonflies of all possible colours, bees sucking nectar from flowers. Here I present the magic of Madagascar through a series of haiku and selected photographs taken by me while travelling across this magical island.

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a purple shower

of Jacaranda flowers

who needs a red carpet?

Jacaranda
Jacaranda

Jacaranda

***

sea of innocence

exuding amber light

lemur's eyes

Lemurs
Lemurs

Lemurs

***

shining

frangipani flower

five-petaled sun

***

morning to evening

poetry of hoopoes

what do they sing?

Hoopoe
Hoopoe

Hoopoe

***

always ready

for a party

red fody

Red fody
Red fody

Red fody

***

dancing sifakas

rest at noon

unbearable heat

White silky sifaka
White silky sifaka

White silky sifaka

***

how much

green gecko loves

the bright winter sun

Gecko
Gecko

Gecko

***

calling out

to walk barefoot

the tsingys of Bemaraha

Tsingy de Bemaraha
Tsingy de Bemaraha

Tsingy de Bemaraha

***

sporty mouse lemur peeping

out from the tree hole

bliss at Bemaraha

***

stick insect at Isalo

still on the tree-twig

try finding it!

Stick insect
Stick insect

Stick insect

***

a haunting hum

fills Andasibe

Indri Indri

Indri indri
Indri indri

Indri indri

***

how innocent they look

napping at Tsimbazaza

fierce fossas

Fossa
Fossa

Fossa

***

singing, flying, mating

they spend their days

Vasa parrots

***

stretching its arms

in prayer

a traveller's palm

Traveller's palm
Traveller's palm

Traveller's palm

***

solitary panther chameleon

at Ivoloina

don't you want company?

Panther chameleon
Panther chameleon

Panther chameleon

***

greater bamboo lemur

busy eating leaves

how adorable

***

crested drongo

in the forest

can't rest

***

long tailed

Madagascar cuckoo

for whom do you sing?

***

Abhay K is a poet, diplomat, editor and translator. He is the author of nine poetry collections.

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