The Mauritian Wildlife Foundation, formerly known as The Mauritian Wildlife Appeal Fund is the only non-governmental organisation in Mauritius to be exclusively concerned with the conservation of endemic species.
The MWF works in close co-operation with the Government with whom a Memorandum of Agreement was signed in 1994. The objectives of the foundation are:
- To conserve and manage the indigenous flora and fauna of Mauritius and its territories.
- To raise and supply funds necessary for the conservation projects undertaken by the MWF and its associate organizations.
- To co-ordinate and administer these projects.
- To inform, educate and involve the Mauritian people in this vital work.
Man, as is often the case, caused the irreversible loss of native plants and animals by interfering with the fragile equilibrium in nature.
Following a report written by Sir Peter Scott, international organisations started getting involved in conservation projects in Mauritius, in 1973. The first major project was that of the Peregrine Fund, USA, for the conservation of the Mauritius Kestrel. They used a private bird collection in Mauritius to set up a captive breeding project. At that time, only 4 kestrels were known to exist.
The Mauritius Kestrel - once the world's rarest bird
In the early 1970s, the entire population of Kestrels had been reduced to 4 specimens, thus making it the rarest bird in the world. It is the only bird of prey in Mauritius and still the rarest falcon in the world. Over the last 23 years, an intensive programme of captive breeding and release has saved the beautiful Kestrel from extinction. The wild population now numbers over 350 and releases of captive birds have ceased. Each year, however, the population is monitored during the summer breeding season: monkeyproof, cycloneproof, artificial nesting boxes are placed in selected areas and the young are ringed and measured. The bird is still on the endangered species list and the management of its population will have to continue for many years to come in order to ensure its survival.
In 1715, the French settled in Mauritius. In 1756, the Governor allowed the unlimited felling of trees. The destruction of the forests had started, to make way for agriculture, particularly the cultivation of sugar cane. The last significant felling took place in the early 1970s, for the creation of exotic forests. Nowadays, indigenous forests barely make up 3% of the island, with only 1% in good condition.
Predatory rats, cats and monkeys compounded the loss of habitat and accelerated the tragic loss in our wildlife. Fortunately, much of the latter remains though most species are threatened with extinction.
In 1988, a study was made on the importance of forested areas in Africa. It ranked the forest in the south-west of Mauritius, a National Park since 1994, as the highest on the list of conservation priorities in Africa. With a unique, largely endangered flora and fauna, Mauritius is known, internationally, as an area of great importance for conservation.
In 1976, the naturalist and conservationist of international fame, Gerald Durell, visited Mauritius and Rodrigues. He initiated the long involvement of the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust in conservation projects in Mauritius. The JWPT got to work on the Pink Pigeon, the Mauritius Echo Parakeet, the Rodrigues Fruit Bat and on Round Island, an islet off the coast of Mauritius. The Government of Mauritius also became involved in conservation in 1976.
The Pink Pigeon - World's Rarest Pigeon
The Pink Pigeon was once found all over the island. It is now restricted to the wet upland forests in the south-west corner of Mauritius. This very tame and vulnerable bird suffers from a loss of habitat and from predatory cats, rats and monkeys. A captive breeding programme was started in the early 1980s. The young were then released in three different parts of the forest. The wild population of Pink Pigeons now numbers more than 250 birds, from a total as low as 15 to 20 in 1985. Captive breeding and release programmes will go on until the number of wild birds exceeds 500. These birds are currently subject to intensive management and their survival is also dependent upon long term management.
The Echo Parakeet - World's Rarest Parrot
As for most other indigenous birds, the catastrophic decline in native habitat has largely restricted the Echo Parakeet to the highland forest of Macchabee Ridge in the National Park. Starting with a low of 20 to 25 birds in the early 90s, promising management techniques were used. They will hopefully help to save the world's rarest parrot, the only parrot which is endemic to Mauritius. So far, we have good news. This year, a record 9 young birds were reared in captivity and in the wild to bring the total world population to 40. However, the urgency remains. The population will have to reach 500 before one can disregard the threat of extinction. Intense management has to be carried out until such time.
In 1982, with funding from the World Wide Fund for Nature and expertise from the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, plant conservation projects were started. Many other international organizations have since been committed and conservation work has developed as a result of this international co-operation.
By the early 1980s, it was obvious that local co-ordination was necessary. In 1984, the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation (MWF) was created as an independent organization and a registered charity.
Rodrigues has three endangered species of vertebrates: the Fruit Bat, the Fody and the Warbler. Once called a paradise, this island covering 109 sq. Kms, situated at 600 kms to the east of Mauritius, has become one of the most degraded islands in the world. In less than three centuries, Man has wiped out all the original plant groups. Today, out of 45 surviving endemic plant species, the majority are critically threatened and seven species are down to less than 10 specimens in the wild. Only two species of birds remain of the endemic fauna: the Rodrigues Fody and the Rodrigues Warbler, and the Fruit Bat. All three were also in great danger till recently.
For almost 10 years, the MWF has been actively involved in conservation work in Rodrigues. Its staff has worked hard on the biology and ecology of the two birds mentioned above and on that of the Fruit Bat. The result has been a significant increase in population. The MWF is also deeply concerned with habitat and vegetation restoration on mainland Rodrigues and on two islets, Coco and Sable, where tens of thousands of sea birds nest.
Once the land of the Dodo, Mauritius is regarded today as an international centre for habitat restoration and the preservation of birds and reptiles. As a result of the work undertaken by the MWF and its partners, Mauritius is at the forefront in the conservation of endangered species and is looked upon as a live laboratory which has set new standards for conservation round the world. The work is pains-taking and demanding. The MWF relies upon a dedicated team of staff and volunteers, many from abroad, whose hard work and commitment enable this vital project to continue.
The MWF is a registered charity organization and depends as such upon the kind donations of those who care about the wildlife in Mauritius. If you would like to help the Fund and to contribute towards its projects in the long term survival of our unique heritage, please consider making a donation.
For further information please write to:
Tel.: (230) 697 6097.
Fax (230) 697 6512.