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Historical background of Le Mondrain

H I S T O R I C A L    B A C K G R O U N D

The existence of the Royal Society of Arts and Science goes far back till the mid 18th Century. A dedicated naturalist, Mr. Philibert Commerson had the idea of creating a scientific society around the year 1769. 

As from then, the Society, timidly known as the “Société d’Emulation” under the French regime, took a fascinating turn when in 1829; Charles Telfair decided to officially launch what would be the “Société d’Histoire Naturelle de l’Ile Maurice”. The Society was born.

After the first meeting of the 29 initial members of the Society on the 24th of August 1829, a major event that would grant the Society due merit, occurred. By 1841, the Society was known as “Société des Arts et des Sciences”. And under the government of Sir William Gomm, Her Majesty Queen Victoria graciously granted the privilege of adding the word “Royal” to its name. And as from 1841, the “Société des Arts et des Sciences” came to be known as the “Royal Society of Arts and Science”.

During the past 172 years of existence, the Society has marked its presence by various means and ways, and played a vital role in the cultural development of Mauritius, through:

The encouraged study of Medicine, Chemistry, Agronomy and Natural Sciences (pure and applied).
The Society has been the pioneer of the “La Chambre d’Agriculture” of which a part evolved into “La Station Agronomique” and 
          eventually into the Ministry of Agriculture, and into the M.S.I.R.I of Mauritius.
Expeditions were encouraged to the neighbouring islands (Réunion and Rodrigues) for initiating research and keeping a 
         database of the flora and fauna of the Mascareigne Islands.
Conservation actions for both flora and fauna throughout Mauritius. And the patrons of the Society officially opened the Nature 
         Reserve of the “Le Mondrain” in 1979. 

However, the beginning of what would be called the Living Museum of Mauritian Plants, started with the discovery of the Hibiscus Genevii by Dr. L. Bernardi and Mr. J. Guého, 33 years ago (on the 21st of January 1968). It is this re-discovery of the Hibiscus genevii – endemic of Mauritius and which was thought to have been extinct some one century and a half ago – that brought about a sense of conservation for existing endemics revealed by the spot at “Le Mondrain”.

No one can say precisely why this spot – nowadays, generally called the Vacoas heights and found between the Tamarind Falls and the Trois Mamelles Peaks – is called “Le Mondrain”. But what we do know is that this site was connected to several historical events in the making of Mauritius. 

Le Mondrain was inherited by Mr. Toussain-Antoine de Chazal from his grand father Mr. Francois de Chazal de la Genesté

In 1819, Le Mondrain estate was enlarged from 405 to 1312 arpents, of which the actual nature reserve forms a small part.

On 29th March 1803, Miss Malcy de Chazal was born as daughter to Mr T. de Chazal. And it is from a watercolour painting of the Hibiscus Genevii, made by Malcy de Chazal, that the identification of the flower discovered on 21st January 1968, was possible. Nowadays, the drawing which is dated 15 février 1821, is one of the rare documents to be found at the Mauritius Herbarium. In fact, it is Miss Malcy’s painting which actually helped to mark out the site of the Mondrain Nature Reserve, nearly two centuries now!

During the French Occupation (1803 – 1810), Captain Matthews Flinders (who was captured on his way back from charting Australia and detained on parole at Ile de France by General Decaen) used to walk from the neighbouring estate, on which he was sequestered, to the very spot of the Mondrain Reserve to observe the English fleet. He dreamed that one day the English team would come and rescue him. 

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