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The Mauritian Kestrel
The Flora (Under Construction)
Fresh Water Fauna
Islets of Mauritius (Under Construction)
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
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.
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
The Crab Eating Macaque (Cercopithidae)
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.
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.
In Mauritius there are 9 species of endemic, 4 species of indigenous birds, 8 species of oceanic birds and 15 species of exotics
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.
(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)
(1) Cave Swiflet (Collocalia francica)
(2) Little Grey Heron (Butorides striatus)
(3) Mascarene Martin (Phedina borbonica)
(4) Madagascar Turtle Dove (Streptopelia picturata picturata)
(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)
(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)
The endemic reptilian fauna consisted of land tortoises, lizards and small boas.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Indigenous River Fishes
Three indigenous fresh water eels have been identified. They appear to be identical to eels found in Madagascar.
(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.
Four species of edible crustacea exist.
(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
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.
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)
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
(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,
Last Update: 7th of June1998
Date on the Web: 31st of January 1998