Mayotte - Geography
The territory of Mayotte encompasses one of the largest coral lagoons in the world, more than 1000 square kilometers in size. Situated in the Mozambique Channel between Madagascar and the African mainland, the territory's islands are surrounded by a wide fringing reef, cut by several channels. Like other coral reefs worldwide, the health of Mayotte's reefs has declined in the past 20 years. Natural threats to the reefs include cyclones and crown-of-thorns starfish, but most of the damage is being caused by the increasing population of the islands. Increased runoff from agriculture, over fishing, direct damage due to people walking on the shallow reef flats, and water pollution are taking a toll on the coral and other sea life.
Small archipelago of volcanic origin, Mayotte forms the eastern part of the archipelago of Comoros. Situated in the southern hemisphere, between the Equator and the Tropic of Capricorn, at the entrance of the Mozambique Channel, halfway between Madagascar and Africa, Mayotte is about 1500 kms from Reunion Island, 8,000 kms Of the metropolis and 400 km of Tanzania.
Mayotte comprises two main islands with a surface area of 374 km2, separated by a 2kms inlet arm and thirty small islets dotted in one of the largest coral reef lagoons in the world (more than 1,500 km2), delimited by a Coral reef longer than 160 kmselle-even cut by a dozen passes.
Mayotte is the oldest island in the Comoros archipelago (about 8 million years old), with a less pronounced relief due to the erosion and sinking of its plateau. Traces of ancient volcanism are present on the island: the crater of Dzaoudzi, occupied by Lake Dziani in Petite-Terre, the circus of Cavani in Grande Terre. The ribs, very well cut, form capes, peninsulas, deep bays lined with mangroves.
The main island, Grande-Terre (363 km2), cut out and steep, consists of 6 eroded massifs whose highest point is Mount Benara (660m). Its particular form earned it the nickname "island hippocampus".
Anchored on the barrier of coral in the East of the lagoon, Petite-Terre (11 km2), is connected to the rock of Dzaoudzi by an artificial dyke, called the Boulevard of the Crabs. The hill of La Vigie (203 m) dominates a landscape arid and relatively flat. The Mayotte airport is located on the Pamandzi islet.
The administrative capital is located in Dzaoudzi, but economic activity is concentrated around Mamoudzou, in Grande-Terre. Petite-Terre and Mamoudzou are the most urbanized areas.
Nature has provided Mayotte with an enchanting environment. The natural vegetation is mainly represented by the humid forests, the majority of the "natural" space being mostly covered by agroforestry systems formed mainly of introduced species. The flora of Mayotte appears however one of the richest in the world in number of native species, in terms of its area.
The coastline of Mayotte presents a diversity of habitats: steep cliffs, rocky coasts, sandy beaches of all sizes and colors.
Terrestrial fauna benefits from the great diversity of environments. Many endemic or threatened species are listed and protected by local regulations or by international conventions: brown lemur, maki, dogfish, chameleon ... The introduction of non-domestic animal species that do not exist in the island Natural state is now prohibited.
Marine flora and fauna are very diverse. Two species of marine turtles, the green turtle and the hawksbill turtle, find in Mayotte nesting sites and "herbaria" essential for their feeding. Some twenty species of marine mammals frequent more or less regularly the Mahorish waters (the humpback whale presents from May to October for its reproduction, and the dugong of which a maximum of ten individuals are occasionally observed in the lagoon).
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