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, and 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. Two thirds of the population live below the international poverty line of US$1.25 a day.
At 587,000 km² (226,640 sq mi), Madagascar is the world’s 46th-largest country. It is slightly bigger than France, and is one of 11 distinct physiographic provinces of the South African Platform physiographic division.
Towards the east, a steep escarpment leads from the central highlands down into a ribbon of rain forest with a narrow coastal further east. The Canal des Pangalanes is a chain of natural and man-made lakes connected by canals that runs parallel to the east coast for some 460 km (about two-thirds of the island). The descent from the central highlands toward the west is more gradual, with remnants of deciduous forest and savanna-like plains (which in the south and southwest, are quite dry and host spiny desert and baobabs). On the west coast are many protected harbours, but silting is a major problem caused by sediment from the high levels of erosion inland.