Fauna And Flora

Return to: The Environment

Kestrel Flowers

The Mauritian Kestrel

Introduction

The Flora (Under Construction)

The Fauna

Mammals

Birds

Reptiles

Fresh Water Fauna

Fauna Conservation

Islets of Mauritius (Under Construction)

Glossary

Bibliography


Introduction

The absence of man, the isolation of the islands of Mauritius, Rodrigues and Reunion over millions of years have enabled a remarkable fauna and flora to evolve there undisturbed. This is often the case in remote and isolated islands. The arrival of man and the ensuing colonisation have had tremendous impacts on the native wildlife. Most of it being driven into extinction or on the edge of it.

The Fauna

Mammals

Endemic Mammals

The Dutch, who were the first to attempt to settle on the island, found two species of mammals in Mauritius: Bats and Dugongs.

The bats present were frugivorous or insectivorous.

Two types of frugivorous bats were endemic to the region: (1) Pteropus niger and Pteropus subniger and (2) Pteropus rodriguensis found in Rodrigues.

Pteropus subniger disappeared by the mid nineteenth century whereas the Pteropus niger is still to be found in parts of the remaining native forest. The Pteropus rodriguensis can be found on Rodrigues where it numbers around 200 individuals.

Two types of insectivorous bats are to be found: (1) the Taphozous mauritianus and (2) the Tadarida acetabulosus.

Dugongs (Dugong dugong) were very common in the lagoons of both Mauritius and Rodrigues and were hunted for food by the Dutch. By 1800 few Dugongs were left in the lagoons of both islands and soon after the species became locally extinct.


Introduced Mammals

The Black Rat

It appears that the black rat (Rattus rattus) very early on disembarked in Mauritius as they were seen by Dutch Sailors in 1606. By 1678 it had also invaded Reunion island and by 1708 large numbers were reported in Rodrigues. The black rat still survivies to this day in the forests. It has been instrumental in the disappearance of a considerable number of endemic species like snakes and large lizards.

The Crab Eating Macaque (Cercopithidae)

Macaca fascicularis

Probably introduced by the early Dutch settlers during the seventeenth century. It has contributed to the disappearance or the rarity of certain endemic species because of its fondness for birds, eggs and nestling. It is not found in Rodrigues.

Farm Animals, Deers, rabbits and horses

During the 17th century, the Dutch introduced a number of common domestic animals like cattle, goats, pigs and horses. Around the same time they also released into the forest animals such as the deer and rabbits.

Other Animals

By the 18th century, the brown rat, cats, dogs, mice and hares had found their way to the island. Mice and hares most probably came from India. The shrew was most probably introduced accidentally into the island from India and interestingly enough it is now preyed upon by the endemic Kestrel to feed its off springs.

The Tenrec, locally known as Tendrac, a small insectivorous mammal was introduced from Madagascar. It is hunted for food by some people.

The Mongoose was introduced from India in 1899 by the authorities in view of controlling rats that were spreading plague. Though only males were to be introduced, a number of undetected females passed through the lot. Mongooses multiplied rapidly and created great havoc to poultry.

Birds

In Mauritius there are 9 species of endemic, 4 species of indigenous birds, 8 species of oceanic birds and 15 species of exotics

Endemic Birds

In 1602, the Captain Willem Van Westzanen gave a first description of the birds he found. He mentioned the existence of Piegeons, Parakeets, Sparrows, Birds of Prey and Owls amongst others. A few years prior, in 1598, the men of Vice Admiral Van Warwick encountered what is now the very symbol of extinction: the Dodo ( Raphus cucullatus ). The flightless Dodo has been described as a large bird with a very big hooked bill, lean and unpalatable in summer, fat and tasty in winter. Within decades, the Dodo had become so rare that it was to be seen only on very few occasions. The last reported sightings of Dodos were in 1662 on "Ile Aux Cerfs" and "Ile De L'Est". Most probably, it became extinct soon after.

Endemic birds

(1) Mauritius Cuckoo Shrike (Coracina typica)

(2) Grey White Eye (Zosterops borbonicus mauritianus)

(3) Mauritius Flycatcher (Terpsiphone bourbonnensis desolata)

(4) Mauritius Black Bulbul (Hypsipetes olivacea)

(5) Mauritius Fody (Foudia rubra)

(6) Mauritius Echo Parakeet (Psittacula eques echo)

(7) Olive White Eye (Zosterops olivacea chloronotos)

(8) Mauritius Kestrel (Falco punctatus)

(9) Pink Pigeon (Nasoenas mayeri)

Indigeneous birds

(1) Cave Swiflet (Collocalia francica)

(2) Little Grey Heron (Butorides striatus)

(3) Mascarene Martin (Phedina borbonica)

(4) Madagascar Turtle Dove (Streptopelia picturata picturata)

Oceanic birds

(1) Blue faced Bobby (Sula dactylatra)

(2) Brown Noddy (Anous stolidus)

(3) Lesser Noddy (Anous tenuirostris)

(4) Red Tail Tropic Bird (Phaeton rubricauda)

(5) Sooty Tern (Sterna fuscata)

(6) Trinidade Petrel (Pterodroma arminjoniana arminjoniana)

(7) Wedged Tail Shearwater (Puffinus pacificus chlororhyncus)

(8) White Tail Tropic Bird (Phaeton lepturus)

Exotic birds

(1)Spice Finch (Lonchura punctulata)

(2) Common Waxbill (Estrilda astrild)

(3) Village Weaver (Ploceus spinolotus)

(4) Yellow Fronted Canary (Serinus mozambicus mozambicus)

(5) Spotted Dove (Streptopelia chinensis)

(6) Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus pyrrhorrhoa)

(7) Indian Grey Francolin (Francolinus pondicerianus)

(8) Zebra Dove (Geopelia striata striata)

(9) Indian House Crow (Corvus splendens)

(10) Indian Mynah (Acridotheres tristis)

(11) Ring Necked Parakeet (Psittacula krameri)

(12) Madagascar Red Fody (Foudia madagascariensis)

(13) Meddler's Duck (Anas melleri)

(14) Sparrow (Passer domesticus)

(15) Bulbul (Pycnotus jocosus)

Reptiles

Endemic Reptiles

The endemic reptilian fauna consisted of land tortoises, lizards and small boas.

Tortoises

There were two species of endemic land tortoises, the Geochelone ineptia and the Geochelone indicus, both now extinct. The tortoises were abundant during the Dutch occupation of the island but soon their numbers suffered a massive reduction due to human predation and the predation of freshly laid eggs by feral pigs. By the end of the seventeenth century both species had become extinct. It appears that these land tortoises fed to a large degree on the ripe fruits of the Blue Latan, an endemic palm tree.

During Dutch times, two species of marine tortoises ( Chelonia midas, Green turtle and Erytmochelys imbricata, Caret) came ashore in Mauritius to lay eggs. Once again feral pigs took their toll and very qucikly these two species became locally extinct. But mercifully, the same marine tortoises can still be seen to lay eggs on the island dependency of St Brandon where the species are now protected.

Lizards

Several species of lizards and geckos originating from either Madagascar or the African mainland landed on the shores of Mauritius in a distant past, evolved there and eventually become endemic to the island. Rats and mongooses have driven to extinction a number of species and presently certain endemic lizards are very rare on the mainland and can be seen in some numbers only on Round island. These are:

(1) Phelsuma guimbeaui guimbeaui

(2) Phelsuma guimbeaui rosagularis

(3) Phelsuma cepediana

(4) Phelsuma ornata

They are of a bright a bright blue green colour with red stripes and red spots on their backs.

Another lizard, the Phelsuma guentheri, can only be seen on Round island. It appears that certain lizards initially originated from the Australian continent such as the Leiolopisma telfairii, a skink now found exclusively on Round island.

Boas

The main land used to harbour two endemic boas, they are now to be found no more except on Round island. They are (1) the Casarea dussumieri and (2) the Bolyeria multicarinata.

(1) Casarea dussumieri

This snake is arboreal at times and the species viviparous, the juvenile casarea is orange in colour whereas the adult is of a light green colour.

(2) Bolyeria multicarinata

This boa has burrowing habits and is of a brown colour. It has been seen only on few occasions this century.

Exotic Reptiles

The introduced reptilian fauna include a few Elephantine tortoises form Aldabra, house lizards like Geckos from Madagascar (Hemidactylus mabouia) or from India (Gehyeria mutilata), (Hemiphyllodactylus typus).

Outdoor lizards include the Ebenavia inunguis from Madagascar and the Chameleon Calotes versicolor from Java.

Two types of snakes were accidentally introduced from India, the Blind Indian Snake (Typhlina bramina) and the Wolf Snake (Lycodon aulicum), locally known as Couleuvre. Both are quite harmless.

Fresh Water Fauna

Indigenous River Fishes

Three indigenous fresh water eels have been identified. They appear to be identical to eels found in Madagascar.

They are:

(1) Anguilla marmorata

(2) Anguilla mossambica

(3) Anguilla bicolor bicolor

The Anguilla marmorata apparently can reach a length of up to 2 metres. It has a pale yellow belly and a greenish brown back.

Anguilla mossambica is, on the other hand, much smaller than the above, reaching a maximum of 1 metre 20 cms in length. It has a light coloured belly and a brown back.

Anguilla bicolor bicolor is the smallest of the lot reaching a maximum size of 65 cms only. It is olive in colour.

Indigenous river fishes include the Mauritian Carp (Dules rupestris) that can weigh up to 1.5 kg, the Chitte of which exist two related species, the Agrostomus telfairii and the Agrostomus dobuloides, finally the River Goby, locally known as Cabot (Sicyopterus lagocephalus).

Introduced River or Pond Fishes

Introduced fishes include the Gouramy (Osphronemus offax) from Java, the Gold Fish (Carassius auratus) known locally as Dame Cere, from Indonesia and the Tilapia (Tilapia niloticus) from the African continent.

River Crustacea

Four species of edible crustacea exist.

These are:

(1) The River Prawn

(2) Colocasia Prawn

(3) The Betangue

(4) Small Prawns

(1) The River Prawn (Macrobrachium lar) locally known as Camaron is 8 to 10 cms long with dark red - violet scales and long pincers. The female is smaller than the male and the eggs are carried by the female to brackish waters of estuaries where the juveniles will hatch and grow.

(2) Colocasia Prawn (Macrobrachium australe) locally known as Chevrette de Songe measures only 4 to 5 cms long and lives in slow moving waters. It lives among outgrowths of Colocasia esculenta, a river plant, known locally as Brede Songe. This plant is edible.

(3) The Betangue (Macrobrachium hirtimanus) appears to be endemic to the Mascarene islands. It is 4 to 5 cms long and has a brownish and shiny armour and thick claws.

(4) Small Prawns are known locally as petites chevrettes. These petites chevrettes appears to consist of several species of small prawns. One of which is endemic: The Caridina richtersi. The others are

(1) Caridina mauritii

(2) Caridina spathulirostris

(3) Caridina brachydactyla

(4) Caridina typus

(5) Caridina serratirostris

(6) Atya pilipes

These prawns are 1 to 3 cms long and live along shaded river banks. They are much appreciated locally as food and still abundant in some rivers.



Introduced Fresh Water Crustacean

The Rosenbergi Prawn (Macrobrachium rosenbergii) was introduced for fish pond farming in the seventies. It is bred in ponds and can reach lengths of up to 12 cms. It is sold on the local market.

Fauna Conservation

In 1976, the government set up a Captive Breeding Programme with the help of international organisations like the Jersey Wild Life Preservation Trust and the World Centre for Birds of Prey of the USA. The Pink Pigeon was the first bird to be breed in captivity and from 1977 to 1991 up to 225 such birds have been bred either in Mauritius or in Europe and the USA.

Things were much more difficult with the Kestrel and it is only in 1984 that the breeding programme really became successful. From 1977 to 1991, 200 birds have been bred using various techniques like double clutching of eggs in both the wild and in captivity, artificial insemination and hand rearing of young hatched in incubators.

Nature Reserves (Under Construction)

Glossary of terms

Endemic: species found only in Mauritius

Exotic: species introduced to the island by man

Indigenous: species found only within the Mascarene Islands

Oceanic Birds: species that live on the islets off the coast of Mauritius and feed entirely from the sea

Bibliography

(1) Claude Michel, Birds Of Mauritius, Edition De L'Ocean Indien 1992

(2) Government Of Mauritius, State Of The Environment Report 1991

(3) Staub France, Fauna Of Mauritius And Associated Flora, Precigraph Limited, Mauritius 1993

(4) Sooknah Kemraj and Chooramun Lolone, SOS Nature Series, A nature lover's and environmental guide to Bird Watch In Mauritius, 1997


Last Update: 7th of June1998

Date on the Web: 31st of January 1998