Flora and Fauna of Mauritius
Flora & Fauna of Mauritius
In Mauritius, there are some 685 various plant species, out of which 311 are endemic. However, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) considers 60% of these species as endangered and Mauritius as the third country in the world with the most threatened island flora.
When Mauritius was discovered by the Dutch in 1598, a thick ebony forest covered the island. The subsequent French and British colonisation led to serious deforestation and today only 2% of good quality native forest is left. Most of it is found on the northern islets offshore and in Black River National Park.
This native forest is under constant threat of invasive plants like Chinese Guava, privet or ravenala, as well as animal predators that contribute to the degradation process.
Some of the national flora includes:
- The endemic Trochetia Boutoniana, only found only on Le Morne mountain, and declared National Flower in 1992.
- The endemic Cassine Orientalis, or bois d'olive endemic to Mauritius can be found throughout the native forest of the country.
- The Diospyros tessellaria, or ebony tree, endemic to Mauritius. This was the most valuable wood worldwide during the Dutch colonization period and it has been widely exploited.
- Crinum Mauritianum grows in swampy conditions on Mauritius. This plant, commonly called the Fleur de Lys du pays, was presumed extinct in the wild until its rediscovery.
- Coffea Macrocarpa is a native coffee plant indigenous to Mauritius. Crossbreeding domestic strains with wild strains like the Coffea Macrocarpa may help coffee growers to fight disease and drought.
- The Mandrinette is a rare exotic hibiscus whose natural habitat is in areas such as Le Corps de Garde and Le Morne Brabant.
In line with the destruction of native forests, a lot of animal species have disappeared in Mauritius. There have been amazing projects, namely with the collaboration of the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation, to save endangered species, some of which are listed below.
The Mauritius Kestrel was once the world's rarest bird, as its entire population in the early 1970s, had been reduced to 4 specimens. It is the only bird of prey in Mauritius and still the rarest falcon in the world. Over the last 23 years, an intensive programme of captive breeding and release has saved the beautiful kestrel from extinction.
The Pink Pigeon is the world's rarest pigeon and was once found all over the island. It is now restricted to the wet upland forests in the south-west. A captive breeding programme was started in the early 1980s. The wild population of Pink Pigeons now numbers more than 250 birds, from a total as low as 15 to 20 in 1985.
The Echo Parakeet has been largely restricted to the highlands forest of Macchabee Ridge in the National Park due to the catastrophic decline in their native habitat.
Starting with a low of 20 to 25 birds in the early 90s, projects have been launched to save the world's rarest parrot, the only parrot endemic to Mauritius.
The Mauritius Olive White-Eye is the smallest of the Mauritian songbirds (10cm). They are easily identifiable with the white eye-ring, a fine curved bill and olive-green plumage. It is the least known of all Mauritian birds and is only found in the upland forest of Black River Gorges National Park. This bird is considered as critically endangered by IUCN due to the severe decline in population size and distribution over the past 30 years. The current population is estimated at only 100-150 pairs.
For their size, the Mascarenes islands (Mauritius, Reunion and Rodrigues) once held more unique reptile species than anywhere else in the world and most were found on Mauritius. However, the arrival of humans and the resulting habitat destruction and introduction of non-native animals and plants have accounted for a large amount of reptile extinction.
Some projects have also been launched for the survival of some reptiles, most of which are found on Ile aux Aigrettes, Ilot Chat, Round Island and Flat Island, islets found off the northern coast of Mauritius.
Some of them include:
- The Telfair's skink
- The Ilot Vacoas skink
- The orange-tailed skink
- The lesser night gecko and Durrell's night gecko
- Guenther's gecko
Mauritius used to be home to endemic tortoises. Unfortunately, they became extinct in 1844. Fortunately, analogue species were introduced in the country, namely the Giant Aldabra Tortoise that can be seen in some parks and on Ile aux Aigrettes.