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 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 to around 200.
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) disembarked very early in Mauritius, as 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)
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, Deer, 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 Pigeons, 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". It most probably 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.
Fresh Water Fauna
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 are 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.
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 bred 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 youngs hatched in incubators.
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