Conservation in Mauritius and
Rodrigues: Challenges and
Achievements from Two
F.B. Vincent Florens
Department of Biosciences , University of Mauritius , Réduit , Mauritius;
Université de la Réunion , La Réunion , France
servation problems on the islands persist and are being
exacerbated, on the one hand by a low and declining
commitment of the government to the conservation of
biodiversity, and on the other by an overwhelmingly
prominent conservation non-governmental organiza-
tion (NGO) that appears to be increasingly drifting
away from biodiversity conservation and towards self-
preservation. There is a growing need to shift the focus
of local conservation efforts away from the current
expensive, predominantly species-centric approach
towards a more all-encompassing and economically
more sustainable ecosystem approach. Some of the
missing ingredients for this outcome seem to include
involving alternative NGOs to carry out conservation
work, an increased capacity of the authorities to take
evidence-based decisions, and a reduction of the
powers of politicians, who, facilitated by the country ’ s
laws, often interfere and pressure conservation profes-
sionals and scientists to produce outcomes that are often
contrary to the country ’ s stated conservation policies.
Mauritius and Rodrigues are among the last places on
earth to have been reached by humans and yet are also
among the most ecologically devastated, thus illustrat-
ing our great propensity to destroy the environment.
The resulting situation, with several species on the
brink of extinction, has attracted extensive conserva-
tion efforts, mostly from abroad. Some species near
extinction, whose situation appeared hopeless, have
recovered and represent conservation success stories.
Today, conservation approaches and techniques con-
tinue to be innovated, developed, and tested on the two
islands, which consequently represent a kind of “con-
servation laboratory” for the tropics. In some ways, the
islands could be seen as representing what awaits the
rest of the tropical world as the latter catches up in
terms of human overpopulation, habitat destruction,
and with fragmentation and alien species invasion
being accelerated. Despite some notable successes, con-
Conservation Biology: Voices from the Tropics, First Edition. Navjot S. Sodhi, Luke Gibson, and Peter H. Raven.
© 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Published 2013 by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Africa: Conservation in Mauritius and Rodrigues 41
and why, leaving little ambiguity about the heavy-
handed role humans played directly and indirectly in
rapidly driving so many species to extinction ( Cheke
and Hume, 2008 ; Rijsdijk et al ., 2011 ).
DAUNTING CONSERVATION CHALLENGES
Except for certain recent conservation successes, the
two islands can be regarded as textbook examples of
what should not be done if we are to preserve biodiver-
sity and ecosystem functioning and, ultimately, our-
selves. Natural habitats on both islands were destroyed
for settlement or agriculture, the rate of destruction
jumping to catastrophic levels in the nineteenth
century, mainly as sugar cane plantations were estab-
lished widely on Mauritius. This development contin-
ued thereafter, leaving a confetti of fragments of native
habitat sprinkled mostly over the steeper slopes and
other areas least suitable for agriculture (Figures 6.1 ,
6.2 ). Many extant native species that survived this
environmental transformation, particularly plants,
remain threatened due to extinction debt ( Tilman et al .,
1994 ; Vellend et al ., 2006 ). The rarest species in the
world is from Mauritius: the palm Hyophorbe amaricau-
lis , down to a single individual. All propagation
attempts over at least 50 years have failed (e.g., Sarasan,
2010 ), making it a top contestant to become the symbol
of the living dead. Many other species, particularly
Mauritius (1865 km 2 ) and Rodrigues (109 km
2 ), two
volcanic oceanic islands formed 8–10 million years ago
in the Mascarene Archipelago in the southwest Indian
Ocean, had one of the worst possible starts in relation
to biodiversity conservation. Within merely 370 or so
years of human presence, these formerly pristine
islands, teeming with endemic and often evolutionarily
remarkable species, were transformed into two of the
worst impacted places on earth ecologically ( Cheke and
Hume, 2008 ). Mauritius is most famous among con-
servation biologists for having provided the world with
the very symbol of human-induced species extinction,
the remarkable dodo ( Raphus cucullatus ) ( Turvey and
Cheke, 2008 ). Rodrigues had its own large ﬂ ightless
bird, the solitaire ( Pezophaps solitaria ), which was also
quickly driven extinct by humans. But these two species
are only the tip of the iceberg of extinction on each
island. Parrots, owls, rails, giant tortoises and lizards,
fruit bats, snails, and many other animal and plant
species disappeared rapidly after humans ﬁ rst set foot
on the islands (Table 6.1 ). The two islands are unusual
in that their original biota was relatively well known
from an early stage of human presence, owing to their
late discovery. Thus, helped by some relatively complete
fossil records (e.g., Rijsdijk et al ., 2009 ), Mauritius and
Rodrigues provide us with one of the best records of
what was initially present and what was lost, when,
Table 6.1 Native and endemic terrestrial species diversity in selected groups in Mauritius (Mau) and Rodrigues (Rod),
with respective total number of extinctions. Percentages are given in brackets
Native Total Endemic Total Extinct Endemic Extinct
Mau Rod Mau Rod Mau Rod Mau Rod
691 150 273 (39.5%) 47 (31.3%) 61 (8.8%) 17 (11.3%) 30 (11.0%) 10 (21.3%)
521 * (20.0%) 0 2 (40.0%) 1 (50.0%) 0 0
28 14 19 (67.9%) 13 (92.9%) 16 (57.1%) 11 (78.6%) 12 (63.2%) 11 (84.6%)
** 17 8 16 (94.1%) 8 (100.0%) 5 (29.4%) 8 (100.0%) 5 (31.3%) 8 (100.0%)
30 10 5 (16.7%) 0 4 (13.3%) 1 (10.0%) 1 (20.0%) 0
125 30 81 (64.8%) 16 (53.3%) 43 (34.4%) 7 (23.3%) 36 (44.4)% 5 (31.3%)
1 Baider et al . 2010 ;
2 Cheke and Hume 2008 ,
3 Hume 2011 ;
4 Williams 2007 ;
5 Grifﬁ ths and Florens 2006 ;
* Goodman et al . 2008
** one species of gecko survives on Rodrigues but it was ﬁ rst recorded after 1884 and is believed to be
Figure 6.1 The percentage of native habitats (in black) remaining at different dates on Mauritius. Only remnants dominated
in their canopy by native species are shown. Those dominated in the canopy by invasive alien plants but with some native
relicts accounted for another 3.4% in 1997. The situation on Rodrigues is even worse.
Adapted from Vaughan and Wiehe ( 1937 ) and Page and D ’ Argent ( 1997 ).
Figure 6.2 Current habitat destruction on Mauritius. (a) The last remnant of mainland coastal native forest in the
Mascarenes being cleared at Roches Noires, Northeast Mauritius, for developing an “environmentally friendly” integrated
resort scheme, demonstrating major loopholes in the local environmental impact assessment process (May 2008). (b) Pile of
uprooted native and endemic plants on Ilot Gabriel Nature Reserve, North Mauritius shortly after the islet was leased to the
friend of a minister. Ofﬁ cially only dead wood was cleared (August 2008). (c) Illegal wetland back-ﬁ lling in northern Mauritius
(March 2008). Most coastal wetlands in Mauritius now suffer from severe disturbances like fragmentation and ﬁ lling
( Laurance et al., 2012 ) (d) One of the illegal clearings for deer hunting within the dense forest of the Nature Reserve of
Cabinet (note shooting platform indicated by the arrow). Those responsible were not ﬁ ned, despite being identiﬁ ed (August 2006).
Photos © F.B.V. Florens
Africa: Conservation in Mauritius and Rodrigues 43
endemic to one or the other island are threatened
( Cheke and Hume, 2008 ).
CONSERVATION AND SUCCESSES
Such a grim situation laid a perfect stage for attracting
substantial conservation efforts, mainly from abroad
from institutions like the Peregrine Fund and the Jersey
Wildlife Preservation Trust ( Jones, 2008 ). These efforts
led to spectacular conservation successes starting in
the 1970s with the Mauritius Kestrel ( Falco punctatus ),
then known from only four individuals and more
recently boasting over 800 wild birds ( Jones, 2008 ).
Recoveries of the Pink Pigeon ( Columba mayeri ) and
Echo Parakeet ( Psittacula eques ) on Mauritius were
achieved through intensive management, including
captive breeding, and represent some of the other great
conservation achievements that followed in the 1980s
and 1990s ( Jones and Swinnerton, 1997 ; Swinnerton
et al ., 2004 ). In parallel with these species-centric
approaches, habitat restoration has been attempted,
mainly through the control of invasive alien species on
important offshore islets such as Round Island, which
holds the highest density of threatened vertebrate
species in the world, or Ile aux Aigrettes, home to the
last relicts of the coastal dry forests of the Mascarenes
( Parnell et al ., 1989 ).
Habitat restoration has also been undertaken on
Mauritius and Rodrigues mainland, where so-called
“conservation management areas” (CMAs) have been
set up and managed ( Cheke and Hume, 2008 ). CMAs
(totaling < 1% of remaining mainland native habitats)
are typically located within well-preserved remnants of
native vegetation. Ranging from 0.3–19.3 hectares in
size, CMAs are usually regularly cleared of invasive
introduced plants and are fenced against large alien
mammals like deer, feral pigs, and goats (Figures 6.3 a,
b). The successful eradication of alien species, includ-
ing rats, goats, and rabbits, from several islets, resulted
in dramatic recovery of the native vegetation and
fauna (e.g., North et al ., 1994 ). On the mainland, the
control of invasive alien plants like the strawberry
guava ( Psidium cattleianum ) in the CMAs on Mauritius
or the rose apple ( Syzygium jambos ) on Rodrigues had
marked beneﬁ cial effects on both native plants ( Baider
and Florens, 2006, 2011 ; Monty, Florens and Baider,
2013 ) and animals ( Florens and Baider, 2007 ; Florens
et al ., 2010 ; Hugel, 2012a ). However, it has been
noted more recently that this restoration activity is
plants, have each shrunk down to a continuously
decreasing handful of individuals. For example, the
Mauritian endemic Badula ovalifolia , an understory tree
discovered in 1821, is today known from only three
adults and one sapling with nearly half of its adult
population lost since 1997 ( Florens, Baider and Bosser,
2008 ). But apart from the extremely small and frag-
mented populations left over from habitat destruction,
the native biota also faces growing pressures from
many invasive alien animals (particularly predators),
and plant species that often reach extreme densities in
even the best preserved habitat remnants ( Strahm,
1993 ; Florens, 2008 ).
Overexploitation has also contributed to the overall
decay of biodiversity on both islands. Easily hunted
animals like the four species of giant tortoises (two on
each island) were swiftly driven extinct ( Cheke, 1987 ).
Populations of economically useful plants were also
decimated. The best examples are some palm species
with edible hearts, which went from being extremely
abundant ( Bernardin de Saint Pierre, 1773 ) to the
brink of extinction within two centuries ( Maunder
et al ., 2002 ). In addition to all these major classic
threats, there is a suite of other biological problems
such as agricultural insect pest introduction ( Kaiser,
Hansen and Müller, 2008 ), lost interactions like seed
dispersal by now extinct fauna ( Hansen, 2010 ), and
the hampering of pollination or seed dispersal by alien
species ( Hansen, Olesen and Jones, 2002 ; Hansen and
Müller, 2009 ), all of these piling up pressure against
the survival of native species of the two islands.
Climate change may also worsen matters, although
evidence so far suggests that the pre-human coloniza-
tion biota of Mauritius has been rather resilient to past
climatic stress ( Rijsdijk et al ., 2009, 2011 ; van der Plas
et al ., 2012 ). Climate change over the last 38,000 years
seems to have triggered transitions between vegetation
communities that mainly involved species reassort-
ments or changes in vegetation distribution, with little
evidence for plant species having gone extinct ( de Boer
et al. , 2013a, b ). At any rate, a large portion of the
surviving native species is nowadays under threat of
extinction according to the IUCN Red List criteria.
Among angiosperms, 81.7% and 77.8% of species
should classify as currently threatened in Mauritius
and Rodrigues, respectively ( Baider et al ., 2010 ). The
corresponding ﬁ gures for land mollusks, an often-used
indicator group, stand at 80% and 60% for Mauritius
and Rodrigues, respectively ( Grifﬁ ths and Florens,
2006 ). In addition, all nine extant land bird species
44 Conservation Biology
More recently, a number of translocations of threat-
ened species to safer havens have been successful. For
example, individuals of the Mauritius Fody ( Foudia
rubra ), a species declining in the face of alien predation
and habitat degradation in its last strongholds in the
Mauritian uplands ( Nichols, Woolaver and Jones,
2004 ), were translocated to the lagoon islet of Ile aux
Aigrettes ( Cristinacce et al ., 2008 ), where alien preda-
tors are absent. Other highly restricted vertebrates that
have survived on a single offshore islet have been
reintroduced onto other islets following the eradication
of their alien predators there. For example, individuals
unnecessarily being made both more expensive and
damaging to native biodiversity merely due to a lack of
basic evidence-informed decision ( Florens and Baider,
2013 ). Furthermore, expensive attempts to exclude
large hoofed mammals from the CMAs have generally
been ineffective ( Florens, 2008 ; Baider and Florens,
2011 ) and their presence and impact did not prevent a
strong recovery of the forest community in the CMAs,
particularly on Mauritius, indicating that attempts to
exclude large mammals might not be as important as
is generally assumed compared with alien plant control,
at least locally.
Figure 6.3 Some conservation activities on Mauritius and Rodrigues. (a) Fencing forest remnants to try to exclude large
alien mammals. This measure generally provides weak beneﬁ ts relative to its cost, particularly on Mauritius, but continues to
be implemented. (b) Weeding of invasive alien plants from native forests. This represents by far the most judicious use of the
conservation dollar, but has a low popularity relative to more “exciting” species-centric projects. (c) Supplementary feeding of
pink pigeon on Mauritius. This conservation action has proven invaluable in saving the species when it was on the brink of
extinction, but now helps maintain the species ’ dependence on intensive management of questionable sustainability. (d)
Innovative use of Aldabra tortoises within a valley undergoing reforestation with native species at the Francois Leguat Tortoise
Park, Rodrigues. The animals are used as analogues to replace extinct endemic species and their lost ecological functions.
Photos © (a), (c) F.B.V. Florens; (b) Courtesy of D. Florens; (d) Photo courtesy of François Leguat Reserve
Africa: Conservation in Mauritius and Rodrigues 45
surprisingly large proportion of native species, particu-
larly of plants, that persist ( Baider et al ., 2010 ; Florens
et al ., 2012 ). Furthermore, new native or endemic
plant species still continue to be discovered despite the
fact that only tiny habitat remnants survive ( Le Péchon
et al ., 2011 ; Baider et al ., 2012 ; Baider and Florens,
2013 ). Even in a few cases where populations have
been extirpated from one or the other island, reintro-
duction might still be possible. Some plants extinct on
Rodrigues can be reintroduced from Mauritius. Neigh-
boring Réunion Island might also supply Mauritius
with some species for eventual reintroduction, includ-
ing plants such as Hernandia mascarenensis ( Bosser et
al ., 1976 onwards), the butterﬂ ies Antanartia borbonica
and Salamis augustina ( Williams, 2007 ; Martiré and
Rochat, 2008 ), the snail Erepta setiliris ( Grifﬁ ths and
Florens, 2006 ), and the bird Circus maillardi ( Jones,
2008 ). As in the case of the introduced tortoises, close
relatives of other extinct endemic species could be con-
sidered as introduction candidates to serve as ana-
logues in natural communities. However, stemming
further losses and extinctions is a much higher
The conservation successes outlined here are hearten-
ing, particularly the recoveries of some charismatic
vertebrates, but the disturbing fact remains that, over
the course of some four decades of sustained and often
intense and costly conservation efforts, only a handful
of species seem to have been saved from virtually
certain extinction. Most of these have been vertebrates
( Jones, 2008 ), although a few plant species have also
recovered much, including Ramosmania heterophylla
(Rubiaceae), a Rodrigues endemic ( Strahm, 1989 ). In
contrast, the vast majority of native species, particu-
larly the less charismatic ones such as at least 750
endemic insect species (e.g., Motala et al ., 2007 ; Hugel,
2009, 2010, 2012b ), continue to decline, as the over-
whelming majority (99%) of native habitats on which
most depend continues to decay into impoverished eco-
systems dominated by alien invasive plants. The
number of species that have been saved for the medium
to long run thus represent a mere drop in the ocean of
endemic and threatened species, a situation that calls
for more decisive and meaningful conservation action.
It is true that several species once thought to be extinct,
having escaped all surveys for sometimes one or even
of the endemic skink Leiolopisma telfairii have been
moved from their last refuge on Round Island to Ile aux
Aigrettes, thus establishing a second population that
will help reduce the risk of extinction ( Thébaud et al .,
2009 ). In other cases, the entire species has gone
extinct, and further action is obviously impossible. This
has been the case with the four giant tortoise species,
which formerly played important ecological functions
as herbivores and seed disseminators ( Hansen, Kaiser
and Müller, 2008 ). In some cases, alien analogues have
been introduced to try to restore the former ecological
interactions. Thus, Aldabra tortoises ( Aldabrachelys
gigantea ) have been introduced to Ile aux Aigrettes
where they now disseminate seeds of endemic ebony
( Grifﬁ ths et al ., 2011 ). This tortoise, along with a
smaller species ( Astrochelys radiata ), have been intro-
duced to Rodrigues to restore ecological function in the
François Leguat Giant Tortoise Reserve, where they
successfully disseminate seeds of native plants and
control invasive alien weeds ( Burney, 2011 ; Figure
6.3 d). However, A. gigantea has more recently also been
shown to enhance the germination of some invasive
alien weeds ( Waibel et al. , 2013 ). Another limitation
with their use as analogue species is that they may not
be able to breed in some sites where they have been
introduced ( Grifﬁ ths et al. , 2012 ).
Mauritius and Rodrigues can thus boast a number
of conservation achievements and continue to play an
important role as a laboratory where new conservation
approaches and techniques are being innovated, tested,
and developed. The outcomes are useful not only locally
but as examples elsewhere, since many places in the
world are or will soon be facing similar problems,
including habitat destruction, overexploitation, dis-
rupted mutualisms, and species invasion. Indeed, to a
substantial extent, Mauritius and Rodrigues already
represent situations that await much of the tropical
world based on current worldwide trends in human
overpopulation (densities of 668 people in Mauritius
and 364 in Rodrigues per km
2 [ CSO, 2010 ]), habitat
destruction and fragmentation, extinction, and inva-
sion by alien species. These multiple threats combine to
produce acute conservation problems but have one
advantage: they incite urgent and concrete conserva-
tion interventions. By attracting such attention, Mau-
ritius and Rodrigues have played useful roles as
conservation laboratories for the world beyond, and so
far many such experiments are working effectively.
Despite the massive habitat loss and other threats,
there is some cause for measured optimism given the
46 Conservation Biology
“conservation successes” over the long run. It is also
true, however, that a conservation NGO, like the one
currently spearheading the conservation of these
species, can itself derive substantial beneﬁ ts with con-
tinued intensive species-centered management; such
activities make the NGO effectively indispensable and
at the same time help guarantee an inﬂ ux of funds
through management fees, which generally increase
with project cost. Incentives to favor species-centered
conservation management, which is the most expen-
sive approach but also the one that builds the greatest
dependence on continued management for the longest
time, can thus be very strong. The virtual monopoly of
non-governmental conservation action, which this
NGO holds on the two islands, exacerbates this problem.
Such a situation can constitute a brake to the promo-
tion of the much more desirable approach of address-
ing conservation from an ecosystem point of view – for
example, by restoring whole habitats as through the
control of invasive alien species. While the need for
such large-scale restoration has recently been recog-
nized for Mauritius and Rodrigues ( NBSAP, 2006 ), it is
still proving difﬁ cult to implement with less than 10%
of the objective attained at midterm of the National
Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP), much
of which is concentrated on islets of importance mainly
for a few vertebrate species but which overall comprise
a tiny fraction of the total native or threatened
This situation prevails despite an ongoing Protected
Area Network (PAN) project funded at US$16 million,
mainly by the UNDP. A small fraction of that amount
would sufﬁ ce to exceed the NBSAP ( 2006 ) target of
larger scale habitat restoration at current proven costs
of initial invasive alien plant control ( < US$2,000 per
ha) ( Florens and Baider, 2013 ). Unfortunately, from
the project document ( UNDP-GEF 2009 ), it appears
that much of this record funding for the country,
entrusted mainly to the same NGO and the National
Parks and Conservation Services, is earmarked for con-
sultancies and other activities that might often dupli-
cate existing knowledge, in particular that concerning
weed control costs and efﬁ cacy, leaving relatively little
for on the ground conservation work. On a positive
note, Mauritius has set up a Conservation Fund, and
some progress has been made in restoring wider habitat
areas. However, disproportionally more effort still goes
to expensive and relatively low-impact projects. A
recent example is the translocation attempt made on
one of the populations of an endemic species of reptile
two centuries, have been relocated in the reduced
patches of remaining habitat ( Florens, Florens and
Sevathian, 2001 ; Florens and Baider, 2007 ; Baider and
Florens, 2011 ). But given the evident extinction debt
and the degree to which the two islands ’ natural habi-
tats have been and continue to be impacted (e.g., Figure
6.2 ), it would be naïve to conclude that enough is being
done to stem further extinctions.
A major weakness in the current regional conserva-
tion approach, particularly in Mauritius, where the
bulk of the two islands ’ biodiversity survives, is the
disproportionate importance being given to a case-by-
case species-level approach to conservation, especially
for birds and more recently for reptiles. This species-
speciﬁ c approach often takes away efforts and funds
from a more comprehensive ecosystem approach that
would beneﬁ t many more species simultaneously,
including the very birds and reptiles of central atten-
tion as the habitat as a whole became more functional.
Thus, a close examination at some of the hailed con-
servation successes, such as that of the pink pigeon on
Mauritius, reveals that the continued maintenance of
the birds depends heavily on the ongoing intensive
management of the habitat as a whole, including the
provision of supplementary food, the control of alien
predators, and the management of disease, which is
rife in the “wild” subpopulations ( Bunbury et al .,
2008 ). The use of feeding hoppers, made necessary
because there is still too little restored native forest to
support the recovering bird population – less than 1%
of the native vegetation currently left – has been
observed to facilitate predation on the birds by alien
vertebrates, presumably feral cats (personal observa-
tion, 1996). It is also plausible that the feeding hoppers
may increase risks of transmission of water-borne dis-
eases, despite the fact that only dry grains are dispensed
in the hoppers ( Namah, 2010 ) and that the bird-
concentrating effect that feeding hoppers have is likely
to favor disease transmission as in the recent outbreak
of beak and feather disease among Echo Parakeets
( Kundu et al. , 2012 ). If conservation is “The imple-
mentation of policies/programs for the long-term
retention of natural communities/species under condi-
tions which provide for continuing evolution” ( Primack,
1998 ), then we have not yet succeeded with the pink
pigeon but instead have saved it from extinction only to
succeed in maintaining it as it were “under drip in an
intensive care unit.” The heavy dependence of this and
other species such as the Echo Parakeet on intensive
management seriously questions the viability of these
Africa: Conservation in Mauritius and Rodrigues 47
protect biodiversity on Mauritius and Rodrigues are
fairly robust, their implementation often remains a
remote dream. For example, the endemic Pteropus
niger , the only of three original species of frugivorous
bats that has escaped extinction on Mauritius, has been
legally protected since 1993. After some 20 years, no
ﬁ nes have been levied, despite the fact that many
animals are illegally killed every year by fruit growers
( Anonymous, 2010 ) and sometimes for sport. The gov-
ernment is even considering relaxing the protection
law ( Anonymous, 2010 ) and adopting a culling
program for this endangered bat species under pressure
from fruit growers ( Florens, 2012a )! A discouraging
sign of the times is that even refraining from culling
populations of this endangered species would start to
be regarded as a conservation victory. Another similar
example of status-quo “conservation victory” concerns
one of the last areas of native forest in southwest Mau-
ritius (at Ferney), which was scheduled to be sliced in
half by a new highway but which in the end was not
( Cheke and Hume, 2008 ). As part of the solution, it
appears imperative that the discretionary powers that
ministers have in law be reduced; there are clearly too
many examples of undue pressure placed on ofﬁ cers
and bodies to take actions that are often in conﬂ ict with
the country ’ s ofﬁ cial strategies and the international
conventions that it has have adopted. A bill has been
drafted by an international team of legal experts that
should, if enacted, help ﬁ ll this and other gaps. But the
civil society should also take up a more vigorous role in
taking authorities to task on the numerous violations
that are continuing to erode what is left of the unique
biodiversity of the two islands.
Mauritius and Rodrigues islands still hold exceptional
biodiversity of global signiﬁ cance despite massive
habitat destruction, invasion by alien species, and
other threats that have led to many extinctions and to
a biota that is today among the most threatened in the
world. Decisive conservation actions have saved some
species from virtually certain extinction and a suite of
conservation and restoration management actions
continue to be innovated, tested, or improved, often
with encouraging results. However, apart from the
classic threats of habitat destruction and fragmenta-
tion, invasive species and diseases, extinction debt, or
broken down mutualisms that are besetting the islands ’
( Gongylomorphus fontenayi ) that was under threat on
Flat Island, a nature reserve north of Mauritius that is
highly subject to pressure by the human population.
An exaggeration of the taxonomic status of the reptile
(from population to full endemic species contra pub-
lished works [ Austin, Arnold and Jones, 2009 ]) seems
to have triggered the authorities to contribute substan-
tial funding there while neglecting other much higher
impact conservation work elsewhere, like larger scale
habitat restoration. In light of such situations, it
appears vital to strengthen the capacity of the govern-
mental authorities like the National Parks and Conser-
vation Services, most of whose staff is trained not in
ecology or conservation but in agriculture, to take
more effective and practical conservation decisions.
Breaking the monopoly of the NGO seems vital too.
One other major conservation problem is the weak
and declining commitment of government to conser-
vation of biodiversity (e.g., Figure 6.2 , Caujapé-Castells
et al ., 2010 ; Florens 2012a , b; Florens, 2013 ), which
itself appears to largely reﬂ ect the lack of importance
that ordinary Mauritians attach to conservation, gen-
erally perceived as a luxury. This problem of perception
is more acute on the more urbanized Mauritius than it
is on Rodrigues. Despite the commitment of many gov-
ernment ofﬁ cers and bodies to addressing conservation
challenges, their efforts are often curtailed by interfer-
ence intense enough to make the ofﬁ cers yield to the
whims of politicians and end up backing decisions that
are detrimental to conservation. One example is the
recent lease of the Ilot Gabriel Nature Reserve to a min-
ister ’ s friend for touristic exploitation, where the pro-
moter not only violated clauses of the lease with
impunity, but beneﬁ ted by a cover-up of the wrongdo-
ings (Figure 6.3 b). A similar situation happened on
another nature reserve (Flat Island). Currently, the gov-
ernment is taking a disturbingly long time to approve
the management plan for the National Park of Islets, a
situation that incidentally favors plans to develop
hotels on biologically important islets. The declining
commitment of the government to conservation is also
apparent in the management of the Conservation
Fund, which is meant to ﬁ nance conservation projects
but which is instead being used largely for the day-to-
day running of the National Parks and Conservation
Service, or even to ﬁ nance litter-picking campaigns
and other expenses only remotely related to conserva-
tion. This misallocation of funds continues to deprive
the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan of
funding. Furthermore, while laws and regulations to
48 Conservation Biology
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