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The waters of Mauritius was teemed with armies of giant turtles, dugongs and fish. Bats, birds and insects feasted on natural resources and the dodo waddled along deserted beaches blissfully unaware than when man arrived in the sixteenth century he would shake the harmony of its existence.

Many of these creatures shared the same fate as the dodo. The gigantic turtle-like bird, with a hard twisted beak and tiny wings had never experienced danger. It had forgotten how to fly and made easy prey for the first Dutch settlers. Within a few years it was wiped off the face of the earth.

The only indigenous mammals of Mauritius were two species of fruit bat, one of which is now extinct and three species of insectivorous bats. A cousin, the Rodrigues fruit bat was until recently also threatened with extinction. A successful colony now exists at the government Aviaries at Black River.

The Mauritius Golden Bat or flying fox is more common. It swoops over highland forests at nightfall in search of fruit.

The deep was introduced from Java in 1639 to supply meat to the first settlers. Deer farming is well established in the Case Noyale and Le Morne areas. Less timid deer can be seen in the enclosure at Pamplemousses Gardens.

Other imported species are the Macaque monkey which was introduced by the Portuguese in 1528 from Malaysia. They move in great bands in the forests of the Black River area and can be trained as domestic pets. The tenrec, a tailess hedgehog-like creature came from Madagascar in the late nineteenth century and thrives in gardens and cane fields living on insects. The mongoose from India, was introduced in 1900  to combat the rat population that threatened the sugar cane. It multiplied so fast that it has in fact become a nuisance. Wild boar are the descendants of the domestic pig introduced by the Portuguese. They feed on sugar cane.   Other introduced animals include the Indian hare, goats, dogs and the hump-back cow or Zebu from Madagascar.


Photography by Natasha Constantinou

" A herd of goat crossing the road "

The agama, commonly and wrongly referred to as the camaleon by Mauritians, comes from India and is brown or green with black markings. It has a slight crest on the head, long legs and a long tail.

There are no poisonous   snake on the island. The only snake is the couleuvre from India which is pale brown with chocolate and gold markings on its back. It is nocturnal and aggressive if disturbed.

Most of the birds found in Mauritius have been introduced. Out of an estimated twenty-six endemic birds only nine species remain. Of these only, the pic-pic or grey white eye, a small greyish bird with a white rump is common. Vulnerable  species include the cuckoo shrike, the merle and the olive white-eye. The population of the Mascarene paradise-flycatcher is small and its survival in the wild is threatened by nest-raiding monkeys while the delightful scarlet red headed Mauritius fody or Cardinal, reputed to bring luck if it enters the home, is in danger of disappearing.

Funded by international Conservation agencies captive breeding of the Mauritius Kestrel has been a success   although the population is still fragile. Even greater success was achieved with the Pink Pigeon another endangered species, which can be seen at Casela Bird Park. The most endangered endemic bird in Mauritius is the Echo Parakeet of which perhaps about a dozen remain.  Experiments to breed it in captivity are being carried out at the Black River government aviary to save it from total extinction.

Introduced or exotic birds thrive well in Mauritius. They can be observed pecking in the sand by beachside bungalows, in open country, at Pamplemousses Gardens or in the aviaries at Casela Bird Park. Birds from India include the red whiskered bulbul, identifiable by its black witch-like crest and red feathered bill, the bluish-black House Crow and the Mynah, a large brownish bird with a yellow bill and yellow feet which can be taught to speak. The spotted dove and the zebra dove from Malaysia can be seen feeding on open land. The ring necked parakeet, not to be confused with the Echo parakeet (a brilliant large  green bird that was introduced in 1886) can be seen where there is a surplus of grain.

Photography by Natasha Constantinou

Serpent Island (which has no snakes) is the habitat of colonies of seabirds, including the blue faced booby the noddy and the sooty tern. Colonies of the wedge-tailed shearwater, the Trinidade petrel and the graceful red-tailed  tropic bird nest on Round Island. Its white-tailed cousin swoops through the gorges of the Black River. Also known as the paille-en-queue (straw in the tail), it has been adapted as the Air Mauritius logo.

Shore and marsh birds, driven to Mauritius by air currents or bad weather, include the whimbrel, the common and curlew sandpiper, the sand plover and the turnstone.







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