Mauritius was once one of the richest oceanic islands in terms of its avian biodiversity. It had 28 land birds, including the Dodo (the symbol of extinction), the Blue Parrot and the Dutch Pigeon. Most of these species are now extinct; only 13 remain and many of these are threatened with extinction.
Mauritius has seven bird species that that are found nowhere else in the world. Three are also found in Reunion, and three are widespread across the region. The Black River Gorges National Park in the South-West corner of the island is the primary habitat for many of these species.
The National Parks & Conservation Service, and the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation have been actively involved in saving several of these bird species from extinction. This has involved intensive species recovery programmes based at the Captive Breeding Centre (Gerald Durrell Endemic Wildlife Sanctuary (GDEWS) which was established in Black River in 1973. This facility is named after the late Gerald Durrell, who pioneered work on the conservation of fauna in Mauritius, and made its plight famous in his book ‘Golden Bats and Pink Pigeons’.
In addition to two waterbirds, one swallow and one swiftlet, the birds of Mauritius are
Bats are the only mammals native to Mauritius. There are two types of bats; large fruit bats (or flying foxes) and small insectivorous bats.
Of the three species that used to be in Mauritius two are now extinct. The remaining species (Pteropus niger), the endemic Mauritian fruit bat is a large bat (a wing span of 80 cm) with golden fur. It roosts in groups in large trees in the forest, and can be seen flying at dawn and dusk in search of food. It feds on ripe fruit, nectar and pollen. It is an important pollinator and disperser of the seeds of native trees such as ebony. It is also fond of tree crops such as litchis which cause a conflict between farmers and the bats.
At present little is known about how many bats there are in Mauritius, it is a protected species and is Vulnerable according to IUCN.
There are two species of insectivorous bats in Mauritius. Both live in colonies in caves or old buildings, coming out at dusk to feed on insects which they hunt using echolocation. These bats are very small and are easily confused with swiflets which often share the same caves. Both bat species are threatened by destruction and sealing of caves.
• The tomb bat (Taphozous mauritianus) is the larger of the two species and is found in Mauritius, Madagascar and much of Africa. The females live in groups; the males are solitary apart from during the breeding season.
• The Natal free-tailed bat (Mormopterus acetabulosus) is found also found in Reunion. This species is listed as Vulnerable according to the IUCN.