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Plants and Animals

Plants and Animals


Of the 600 species of plants found in the Maldives, about half are native; the rest are imported. The flora consists mainly of plants that can survive on saline, alkaline soil. Some tropical rainforest occurs on some islands, but the vast majority of Maldivian flora has been planted by humans. Remarkably, there are islands with fairly lush vegetation while others are virtually barren. The national tree is the coconut palm which is used for a wide variety of purposes. The coconut palm is even so important to the Maldivian that it is also called the tree of life. Remarkably, almost all coconut palms are owned by someone; they are often even numbered to that effect.

Many fruits yield breadfruit trees, papayas, banana trees, mango trees and guavas. Useful to the population are the funa, dhiggaa and the banyan found in large parts of Asia. Also useful are bamboo, some cane species, areca palm and betel, a climbing plant. Common are the typical pandamus trees and casuarinas, a type of conifer. Notable non-native flowers include roses, frangipani, hibiscus, oleander and bougainvillea. The national flower is the pink rose.

Due to economic growth and population growth, trees have been cut down irresponsibly in the Maldives in recent years.

The Maldives is a true paradise for lovers of marine fauna. Among more than 200 species of coral, nearly a quarter of all life forms in the seas and oceans are found. The number of fish species is estimated at 2000.


In terms of marine mammals, 22 species of dolphins and whales are found in the waters around the Maldives. Furthermore, five species of sea turtles. A spectacular sight under water are also the 14 shark species. Among the reefs we find the white fin reef shark, the gray reef shark and the baker shark. The tiger shark, the white shark and the hammerhead swim a little further away from the reefs. The largest fish on earth, the whale shark, can be seen especially during the southwest monsoon. The seawater is then extra food-rich.

The largest ray species in the world, the giant manta ray, is also often seen in Maldivian waters. Other species include the spotted ray, the stingray and the thornback ray. Fishing is mainly for swordfish, tuna and marlin. Dangerous because poisonous marine inhabitants are stonefish, scorpion fish and lionfish. The "Portuguese man-of-war", a type of jellyfish, and the cone snail are also quite poisonous. The number of mussel species is estimated at 5000, including the beautiful cowrie shell, which used to be an important export item. They served as currency in the Indian and Pacific Ocean countries.

Large mammals are not found in the Maldives. Among the largest are the flying dogs. Of particular note is the meedha, an out-of-shape shrew. Mosquitoes and ants are very common and can cause a lot of trouble. There are about 75 species of butterflies in the Maldives, as well as beetles (including the large rhinoceros beetle), paper wasps and large dragonflies.

Spiders, scorpions and hermit crabs roam everywhere. Amphibians are limited to one species of frog and one species of toad. Reptiles are much more common such as geckos, two harmless snake species and a large centipede, which can bite ugly. The four species of turtles in the Maldives are endangered in their existence, but for now can be seen regularly.

Very numerous are the ubiquitous crows. The grey heron is regularly seen as well as various species of gulls and wading birds such as plovers, bitterns and sandpipers. Rather rare is the little Maldivian heron. On the southern atoll Seenu, the rare white tern occurs. Furthermore, the Maldives are a stopover for dozens of bird species during their migration to other areas.

Dogs are not allowed in the Maldives due to Islamic regulations.


Derksen, G. / Maldiven

Ellis, R. / Maldives

Lyon, J. / Maldives
Lonely Planet

Vliet, E. van / Reishandboek Malediven

Voigtmann, H. / Malediven

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated May 2024
Copyright: Team The World of Info