My name is George Sayer, I have recently started on the newly accredited Postgraduate Diploma in Endangered Species Recovery, based in Mauritius. The course is run by Durrell Conservation Training Ltd (part of Durrell Wildlife Preservation Society) in collaboration with the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation (MWF) and Government of Mauritius National Parks and Conservation Service (NPCS), and is accredited by the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology at the University of Kent.
I have been kindly invited by Andrew to share a few of my experiences on the FrogBlog.
I have just returned from 5 days on Round Island, a 214 Ha islet 22.5km off the coast of Mauritius. The island is essentially a large volcano with a breached cone at the centre. It was designated a nature reserve in 1957 and contains the last remnant of a lowland, plant-rich community dominated by endemic palms that was once widespread on Mauritius.
The island also boasts an ecosystem containing endemic seabirds and invertebrates. The island is free of introduced mammals (rodents have never made it, rabbits and goats have been exterminated) allowing an internationally significant and relatively-intact reptile community to survive, consisting of 7 endemic species:
- Keel-scaled boa
- Gunther’s gecko
- Telfair skink
- Durrell’s Night Gecko
- Ornate Day-Gecko
- Bojer’s Skink
The more common Bouton’s skink also lives along the rocky shoreline. Before recent reintroductions 4 of these species only survived on this island, having previously been extirpated from Mainland Mauritius. Unfortunately another species, the Burrowing Boa is thought to now be extinct, having not been seen since 1975, but populations of the other reptiles appear to be doing well.
The island is now being used as a source from which to repopulate other offshore islands with reptiles to ensure continued survival in the face of human and environmental threats. Radiated and Aldabra Giant tortoises have been introduced onto the island to act as ecological replacements for the 2 extinct Mauritian tortoise species. They do a good job of suppressing invasive weeds and spreading the seeds of the native vegetation.
Access to the island is prohibited to the public to minimize risks of invasive species arriving or any damage to the ecosystem. The entire shoreline is rocky, making the only means of entry a long boat ride and a jump onto the rocks, or a Mauritian Police helicopter. This helps the wardens enforce this rule. This island along with several others around Mauritius is an exciting example of “marooning” endangered species away from multiple threats and recreating lost ecosystems as best we can.