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Discovering Malawi – The Land of Hippopotamuses
In June 2009 Madonna Lou Ciccone – the most successful singer in the world – put Malawi – which has not been mentioned in the world record in recent years – on the world map when she traveled to the African country, which bigger than the state of Ohio, and get a girl. And what do you know about this African country?
II. Welcome to the Land of Elephants
Malawi is a country of magical heaven, perfect for those who value natural life. This African country, with more than 36% of its land still covered by tropical forests, has many national parks. Wildlife refuges in Malawi are home to wildebeests, hyrax, elephants, zebras, snails, crocodiles, rhinoceros, lions, cheetahs, hippos, and other animals.
Lake Malawi National Park has one of the greatest landscapes in Africa. This lake has an area of 11,150km2 – almost 9 times larger than Rhode Island – with extensive native plants and wildlife such as hippos. Since the 1970s this area has been a focus for a major tourism industry. Many foreign tourists travel to Lake Nyasa – also known as Malawi – and other natural sanctuaries each year to see and photograph the hippos that live there. This lake, one of the ten largest lakes in the world, has been compared to the Galapagos Islands (Ecuador, South America) for wildlife. It has more animals than any other lake in the world. Lake Malawi, for example, has one of the highest fish densities in the world (500 different fish species, almost all endemic). This area is also a refuge for birds such as kingfishers, cormorants, and eagles. Lake Malawi National Park was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984.
The Chongoni Rock-Art area is another popular tourist attraction.
III. A brief history of Malawi
Landlocked Malawi, formerly Nyasaland, has been an independent country since the latter half of the 20th century. In the last century, it has been led by the United Kingdom. During this period, the British greatly influenced both the economy and the world of the country. Like many former British colonies, it was a member of the Commonwealth. Malawi spent many years after its independence under colonial rule.
From 1964 to 1994, Malawi was ruled by the dictator Hastings Kamuzu Banda, who established one of the worst kleptocracies in Africa. At the domestic level he has also pursued a hostile housing policy against Asians and other minorities. During his iron-clad rule in Malawi, he had close relations with white-dominated South Africa, a state that was estranged from the international community. SA has been criticized for its government’s racist policies. During this period, Malawi’s Kamuzu Banda of the Malawian government made international headlines when he arrived in Pretoria to speak with South African leaders. Kamuzu Banda became the first and only African head of state to travel to an apartheid country. This visit has no parallel in the world of politics.
Soon after, the South African government sent economic aid to Malawi, one of the least developed countries in Africa. Pretoria has certainly played a leading role in the country’s economy.
Without a doubt, Kamuzu Banda is one of the most hated leaders in the world. But to change the opinion of the countries, who have condemned his policy to South Africa, the country’s government did not participate in the 1976 Olympic competition in Montreal, Canada.
At the same time, Kamuzu Banda aligned his country with the anti-communist movement in Africa, including Egypt, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya and Zaire (the Democratic Republic of Congo today). At this point, he established full diplomatic relations with Taiwan, a country not recognized by the United Nations. On August 4, 1967 President Kamuzu Banda went to Taipei for an official visit. During the Cold War, Malawi was an ally of Taiwan. On the other hand, the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II went to Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi, for an official visit in 1989.
The dictatorship came to an end after 30 years and Malawi became a new democratic country. On June 17, 1994 Malawi held its first multi-party presidential election and Bakili Muluzu became the head of state. This landlocked country is one of the few democracies in the African region. In 2004 Bingu wa Mutharika won the second free elections. In 2008 he — the country’s second post-Cold War president — granted diplomatic recognition to the People’s Republic of China against Taipei’s opposition.
This landlocked country is one of the most peaceful countries in Africa. Unlike most of its neighbors, Malawi has never had a civil war or government coup. Malawi is home to refugees from Mozambique, Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
IV. Human Development
With a population of over 9,000,000 and an area of 45,700 square miles – almost 3 times larger than Switzerland – Malawi is located in southeast Africa. It is one of the most populous regions in the African continent. Lilongwe is the capital city.
The Chewa are the largest tribe in Malawi. They dominate the Nyaja, Lomwe, Bantu and other minorities.
Unlike much of Africa the country is not blessed with mineral resources. But this country has very fertile soil. Malawi’s economy is mainly based on agriculture.
The former authoritarian government destroyed the economy and made Malawi a poor country. This country is one of the eighteen poorest countries. Since becoming an independent country in 1964, it has struggled to solve human development (education, employment, public health, nutrition). In 2008 Malawi ranked 162 out of 179 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index, ahead of Ethiopia, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The World Health Organization (OMS) says life expectancy is 35 for women and 36 for men – one of the lowest in the Third World. According to the UN and other international organizations, more than 10% of the adult population has HIV/AIDS. It has one of the highest infection rates in Africa in the past decade.
Soccer is the national sport in the country, but Malawi has not qualified for the FIFA World Cup. However, the national football team won a bronze medal at the African Games in Nairobi, Kenya – Malawi’s best ever result. Unfortunately, it has not produced any international athletes or African title holders. In Beijing 2008, Malawi was poorly represented by four athletes (Chauncy Master, Lucia Chandamale, Charlton Nyirenda, Zahra Pinto). It is the eighth participation of Malawi in the Summer Olympics – Munich 1972, Los Angeles 1984, Seoul 1988, Barcelona 1992, Atlanta 1996, Australia 2000, Greece 2004, China 2008.
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