Mauritius: Flora & Fauna
Native or Not?
Today, many of the island’s original species have gone extinct, and many died off because of humans. But, early settlers did get to meet some of these original species. There is a Dutch drawing from 1670 of a type of goose called the Mauritian Shelduck. The Shelduck was hunted for food and soon became extinct.
I think these early records are so interesting. I imagined Mauritius covered with plants and animals that I couldn’t find anywhere else in the world. Species like this are called endemic – this means they are only found in one particular place.
When people began settling in Mauritius, so did non-native plants and animals. These plants and animals arrived aboard the ships from Europe. Today, most of the species found on the island arrived with different groups of settlers. Sugarcane is a great example of an imported species. The Dutch introduced it to the island in the 17th century.
Non-native plants and animals can be harmful to the island’s original species, because they can change the habitat. The dodo bird went extinct after Dutch settlers brought rats, pigs, and monkeys to the island. These non-native species competed with the dodo for food and ate its eggs. Within 80 years, the dodo disappeared.
Seeing these animals has made me more aware of how easily a small population can be wiped out by humans.