Formerly a landlocked plateau in the centre of Gondwanaland, Madagascar became marooned when that ancient landmass split into the island continents of Australia, Antarctica, South America and Africa. Separated by the Mozambique Channel from Africa’s eastern coast about 65 million years ago, Madagascar developed in isolation. Its natural history is unique. The world’s fourth-largest island is another Galápagos, referred to by some ecologists as ‘the eighth continent’. Eighty percent of Malagasy plants and animals are endemic, rivalling Brazil in its biodiversity. Archaeologists believe that people first arrived in Madagascar from Indonesia/Malaya about 2000 years ago and although they have eliminated some species they haven’t dominated nature: there’s simply too much of it. Eight whole plant families exist only on Madagascar, as do almost 1000 orchid species, many thousands of succulents, countless insects, at least 350 species of frog, around 370 kinds of reptile, five families of birds and approaching 200 different mammals including lemurs, the prosimians who comprise an entire branch of the primate family tree, the order to which we ourselves belong.