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Global Ideas

Unwanted visitors in Mauritius

The rainforest in Mauritius is considered a global biodiversity hotspot, but it’s being destroyed, and foreign species are partly to blame. The country's methods to control those species are stirring up controversy.

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Project goal: promoting the spread of native species on remaining forest land
Implementation: removing invasive species from protected areas and studying the role of native plant species on the local ecosystem
Project size: more than 6,000 hectares of private and government-protected land, plus 11 nature reserves supervised by the Mauritius Wildlife Foundation
Project volume: cost of restoring native species estimated at 1,000 Euros ($1,373) per hectare of land, funded mostly by the government, plus additional cost of maintaining the forest
Biodiversity: Mauritius is home to some 300 plant species that can only be found on the island, plus 5 native bird species that are endangered
Largest success: There were only 2 remaining Mauritius kestrels (a type of falcon) left on the island a few decades ago. Now there are some 500 on Mauritius.

It’s the national emblem of Mauritius, found on everything from the flag to tourist paraphernalia, but the Dodo no longer exists. The flightless bird went extinct hundreds of years ago, falling victim to European rats that feasted on its eggs. But the Dodo wasn’t alone in its fate. More species have gone extinct on Mauritius than in any other country in the world. One in every ten plants and half of all animal species on the Indian Ocean island have disappeared. That places Mauritius at number 35 on the global list of biodiversity hotspots, and it’s still under threat. Invasive species, like the long-tailed macaque monkey, are destroying the island’s remaining rainforest land. The government has launched efforts to control and eliminate the macaque population, but its aggressive efforts have sparked controversy. The monkeys are captured and sold to foreign labs for medical testing, a process that brings Mauritius around 1 million dollars a year. The profits are fed back into the country’s conservation efforts.

A film by von Thomas Mandlmeier

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