The unique wildlife of Mauritius

Mauritius is a tropical island paradise located in the Indian Ocean to the east of Madagascar. Being a remote island that is geographically separated from any mainland, there are some unique species which have evolved in Mauritius. We call these species that are unique to a particular area “endemic’’ – so when we say that the Echo Parakeet is endemic to Mauritius, it means that this particular parakeet is only found in Mauritius.

Due to its isolation, Mauritius has a relatively low diversity of wildlife; however, a high proportion of these are endemic species occurring nowhere else in the world. Many of these are now threatened with extinction because of human activities including habitat destruction and the introduction of non-native species. Some have already become extinct, most famously the dodo which disappeared in the 17th century.

Here are a few Mauritius-endemic animal species still living on the island:

Mauritian kestrel – The only bird of prey on Mauritius, the recorded population dropped to an all-time low of only 4 individuals in 1974 and it was considered the rarest bird in the world. It is believed that there are less than 400 mature birds alive in the wild.

Mauritian flying fox – Originally, there were no terrestrial mammals on Mauritius, because it is a small island remote from larger land masses. The only mammals that made their way to the island are bats and marine mammals. Of the two fruit bats, only one remains – the Mauritian flying fox (also known as Greater Mascarene flying fox or Mauritius fruit bat). Two insectivorous microbats also remain.

Pink pigeon – The Pink pigeon nearly became extinct in the 1990s and is still very rare. It is the only Mascarene pigeon that has not gone extinct. Thanks to intensive conservation efforts over the past 30 years, the Pink pigeon is no longer endangered. In 2018 the Pink pigeon was downlisted from Endangered to Vulnerable, a further milestone to that of 2000, when it was downlisted from Critically Endangered to Endangered.

Mauritius ornate day gecko – With a reachable length of only 12cm, this is one of the smallest day geckos. This gecko is known to lap nectar from tree blossoms in Mauritius. In this way, these primarily insect-eating geckos have become rare pollinators, filling an ecological niche typically held by other species on the mainland.

Echo parakeet – A species of parrot endemic to the Mascarene Islands of Mauritius and formerly Réunion, is the only living native parrot of the Mascarene Islands; sadly, all others have become extinct due to human activity.

These are just a few mentions of endemic Mauritian species. If you want to participate in the conservation of wildlife in Mauritius, you can join us in Conserving Biodiversity in Mauritius as a volunteer!

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