Amazing Eco-Tour in Rodrigues with the MWF – Mauritian Wildlife Foundation
By now you should probably know that I am a plant lover as well as an animal lover, so I get pretty excited when visiting projects about biodiversity, preservation and conservation of the species.
DODO – SYMBOL OF MAURITIUS
Mauritius is home to some of the world’s rarest plants and animals, but colonization and the introduction of non- native species have unfortunately threatened its indigenous flora and fauna. Speaking of animals, when visiting Mauritius you will often find represented on t-shirt, souvenirs and restaurants’s signs the image of a bird, named dodo. The dodo, descendant of a type of pigeon, settled in Mauritius over four million years ago. Pretty impressive, I know!
With no predators to attack them, dodos had lost their ability to fly and when Arabs, followed by Portuguese took over the island, the threat became real. Weighing up to 50 pounds (23 kg), the dodo was a welcome source of fresh meat for the sailors. Large numbers of dodos were also killed for food. Later, when the Dutch used the island as a penal colony, new species were introduced to the island and rats, pigs, as well as monkeys started eating dodo eggs in the ground nests.
As you can imagine, this reduced the dodo population. Within 100 years of the arrival of humans on Mauritius, the once abundant dodo became a rare bird. The last one was killed in 1681. So nowadays, the dodo is featured as a heraldic supporter of the National Coat of Arms of Mauritius.
MWF – MAURITIAN WILDLIFE FOUNDATION
The Mauritian Wildlife Foundation (MWF) is the only non-governmental organization (NGO) in Mauritius to be exclusively concerned with the conservation and preservation of the nation’s endangered plant and animal species. The hands-on conservation projects are carried out in Mauritius and the outer islands, including the semi-autonomus island of Rodrigues.
The MWF’s mission is to save endangered species from extinction and to raise awareness about conservation issues through education programmes.
HOW DOES THE MWF RAISE AWARENESS?
As I mentioned in the previous post, places such as Mauritius and Rodrigues, are often visited by tourists from all over the world for their beautiful beaches and their biodiversity, so the MWF has been offering guided ECO- TOURS, which are available to the public, and LEARNING WITH NATURE TOURS, which are specifically designed for the students on the islands (for more info you can check out their website here http://www.mauritian-wildlife.org/application/index.php?tcid=1&tpid=1).
REEP – RODRIGUES ENVIROMENTAL EDUCATION PROGRAMME
It is extremely important and necessary to educate and sensitise, not only children but all Rodrigues and visitors about the conservation of biodiversity. Thanks to the Rodrigues Environmental Education Programme (REEP), financed by the Philadelphia Zoo in the US, the MWF works closely with all pre- primary and secondary schools as well as local communities with the aim to involve everyone directly with the conservation work. Educational talks are given in the villages and field outings are organized to the nursery and nature reserves so that Rodriguans understand the importance of restoration work and the protection of their island’s biodiversity. In this way students and locals can actively take part of the project and educate themselves about the conservation work.
As part of my project, I was very lucky to be guided by Reshad Jhangeer -Khan, Manager at the Wildlife Foundation in Rodrigues.
I absolutely enjoyed my visit and found the tour incredibly insightful thanks to Reshad’s knowledge!
LOST IN THE BEAUTY OF THE GRANDE MONTAGNE NATURE RESERVE
While walking around, I couldn’t stop taking photos. The GMNR – Grande Montagne Nature Reserve is massive!
While feeling completely at peace and walking around, Reshad told me about plants, animals and some of the upcoming projects that the MWF has currently been working on. I was so sad to hear that, because of its colonization which degraded the island of its flora and fauna, a lot of species have gone extinct. Of the thirteen species of endemic birds, only two remain and both are currently classified as near threatened on the IUCN Red List of endangered species.
I was lucky enough to see one of them! This in the picture is the Rodrigues warbler.
THE PANDANUS TREES
One of the trees that intrigued me the most was the Pandanus , for its interesting morphology. It is sort of a palm-like evergreen tree, ranging in height up to 7m and has an upright trunk that is smooth with many horizontal spreading branches with annular leaf scars.
Old leaf scars spiral around the branches and trunk, like a screw.
I have to say that I am pretty sentimental, even when it comes to plants but I was extremely intrigued by its structure and the way how these trees are all connected. Like a family. When Reshad heard me saying that, we actually started talking about the connection between trees that is simply invisible to the eyes of us humans. But he confirmed that some trees have been found to communicate with others for self-defence, and by using their roots, yet another type of plant known as an epiphyte, can grow on trees, harvesting goods such as nutrients and water. Fascinating right?
(This is one of the dedicated workers recruited for the current project taking care of the Reserve )
As you can imagine, it takes so much time and work to take care of such a massive Reserve. As Reshad was explaining, there are many invasive alien plants growing around the Reserve that are actually no good and need to be removed. As a response to this, the MWF has decided that soon, five analogue tortoise will be introduced in the Reserve, so that hopefully will start helping clearing the area by eating these plants.
Reshad also told me that in the EU funded plot, approximately 23.000 seedlings have been planted!
Here’s a picture of the plot!
This is Alfred Begue, Project Support Officer. This guy is a legend! He knows so much about everything and as you can see from the picture, he REALLY loves animals!
Yeah, Alfred was casually holding it!
TO THE VIEW POINT
And yes of course there is a beautiful view point, from where you can admire the beauty of Rodrigues in all its glory!
Yes it can get a bit windy but the view is absolutely breathtaking!
Sending you lots of love from Rodrigues!