The flora of Mauritius
(Author: Mr. Gabriel d'Argent)

Ocean islands such as Mauritius have developed a unique flora and fauna through evolution.  This means that small islands often have high levels of plants and animals (birds, reptiles, etc.) which are found nowhere else in the world.  The word we use for this is endemic.

The flora of Mauritius is particularly diverse and includes more than 700 species of native flowering plants and ferns.  Of this number 311 species are endemic to our regions (the Mascarene islands).  About 45% of this number is strictly endemic to Mauritius (W.Strahm).

About 150 species of our native endemic flora are now critically endangered with about 5 species known from less than 10 individuals in the wild.  For its size, Mauritius has the second highest endemism in the world, second to Reunion (W.Strahm/L.U.C.N.).

Due to the high numbers of exotic plants and animals now on the island, the native wildlife is under very severe pressures.  Native wildlife is under very severe pressures.  Native forests is choked by the invasive introduced species, worse ones are Chinese guava, privet, liane cerf (Hiptage), ravenale, aloes, and many others, and the native plants are unable to regenerate.  Gradually as old trees die naturally, there is no native forests left and what remains is particularly vulnerable to cyclones.

Exotic animals such as deer, wild pigs, monkeys, readily eat and destroy plants, fruits and seedlings of native plants.  Rats also damage fruits etc. and destroy eggs of native birds.

To solve these problems, an area of forest has to be intensely managed and protected.  Initially, we need to find these native forests which have the potential to recover, if we weed out the exotic plants and fenced the area to keep out exotic animals.  This is a time consuming and costly process.  However, once completed, the native forests are able to breathe once more.  Within a few years, native seedlings appear and the wildlife returns.

Few wild places in the world can survive today unless they are managed.  This is certainly true for MAURITIUS.  Without nature reserves such as Brisefer, Macabé, Bel Ombre, Ile aux Aigrettes, Mondrain etc. many of the unique plants and animals would eventually vanish.

Luckily much of our nature reserves in areas under control of the Conservation Service & National Park, and the Mauritius Wildlife Foundation have therefore concentrated much of our restoration projects in this area.

The National Park and Conservation Service has established managed forest reserves and provided infrastructure to allow conservation works comfortably in the forest.

Other areas outside the National Park, such as Ile aux Aigrettes and mondrain Nature Reserve have also received long term effort and commitment from local and overseas personnel.  May I add that Mondrain Nature reserve is also managed by the Royal Society of Arts and Sciences and during our conservation/restoration project, we received the generous assistance of Medine Sugar Estate, through the provision of estate labourers, at a certain period of the year, up to now.

Because our wildlife is so unique and so special, it warrants conservation because of its national and international value.  The flora and fauna of Mauritius are part of our heritage and are there to be admired … and to be enjoyed.
 

 January 2001


Mr. G. D’ARGENT is aged 76 years.  He worked in the field of Forestry for more than 40 years, 1943-1984.  On his retiring from the service, he started working with Dr. Wendy STRAHM at the onset of her project.  By that time, she initiated an important plant conservation and habitat restoration (sometimes jointly with the Forestry Service) over parts of Mauritius Forest, which was initially financed by the World Wildlife Fund (W.W.F.).

They worked in the forests and mountains across the whole of Mauritius.  On her departure in 1993, Mr. D’ARGENT continued working, up to now, for the Mauritius Wildlife Foundation (M.W.F), a Mauritian non-Government Organisation which has been established for more than 15 years, in an effort to prevent further habitat and species extinction on the island f Mauritius, and surrounding islets (Ile aux Aigrettes, Round Island) including Rodrigues.