Palau <<puhl OW>> is a small island country in the western Pacific Ocean. It has about 200 islands. Palau is about 500 miles (800 kilometers) east of the Philippines. It is part of a large island group called Micronesia <<MY kruh NEE zhuh>>. Melekeok is the capital city of Palau.
Most of Palau is surrounded by a coral reef, an underwater hill made of the skeletons of many tiny animals. The northern islands were formed by volcanoes. They have rich soil and thick forests. The southern islands are mostly coral rock.
Most of Palau’s people are related to the first people who settled there thousands of years ago. About two-thirds of the people live on Koror Island. They speak Palauan and English. Most of the people are Christians. Many of the rest follow a local religion that keeps its old traditions.
Many people in Palau work for the government. Some others are farmers who live in small villages. They raise barely enough food to earn a little money. Some people fish for a living. Tuna is an important product. Tourism, or showing visitors the country, is important to Palau.
The first people arrived in Palau at least 4,000 years ago. They probably came from Southeast Asia. In the late 1800′s, Spain ruled Palau. Then Germany took control. After World War I (1914-1918), Germany lost the islands. Japan controlled Palau until the end of World War II (1939-1945). Then the United States took over. Palau became independent in 1994.
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