A day in the life on Round Island
Posted onJuly 27, 2023by|, ,
If it takes a village to raise a child, then it must take a metropolis to restore an entire island. Round Island, a closed nature reserve nestled off the northern tip of Mauritius stands as a testament to this sentiment. Once plagued by invasive species like rabbits and goats, the dedicated efforts of conservation biologists and intensive eradications have given this beautiful island a chance to flourish once again.
Having spent three transformative weeks on Round Island participating in various conservation initiatives, I can provide a glimpse into daily life on the island to give a sense of the work that contributes to this remarkable achievement.
6:30am – The day begins as I gently shoo any curious tortoises away from my tent door. With the dawn, it’s time to tackle the dishes from the day before. Because water is a scarce resource on Round Island, we all pitch in to do the dishes using as little water as possible. Many hands (and a killer playlist) make for light work and after a quick breakfast we gear up for the day’s work.
Giant Aldabra tortoises are often house guests.
An open concept kitchen: dishes start at 6:30.
8:00am – Early mornings start with carrying barrels full of young plants up the steep volcanic slopes of the island to find the perfect places to establish new vegetation. These plants, nurtured in island nurseries, are gradually exposed to the elements through a process called hardening before planting. Each new plant is fitted with a bowl, which is a small rock wall to retain as much water as possible. The newly planted individuals are carefully monitored in the weeks after planting to make sure they are thriving in their new locations!
Loaded up with mature plants ready to go in the ground.
Newly planted plants are given a “bowl” which helps them retain water.
12:00pm – To avoid working in the hottest part of the day, our lunch break is taken in the early afternoon. This also coincides with the peak activity of the tropic birds who call Round Island their home. Savoring a cup of coffee while listening to the distinctive “pew pew pew” of the soaring birds is a serene midday break.
2:00pm – Equipped with special nets, jars, tubes and tweezers, the afternoon is dedicated to the small, and often overlooked inhabitants of the island—its invertebrates. These insects, spiders, worms, crabs, and other fascinating creatures play crucial roles in maintaining healthy ecosystems. Employing a range of survey methods, from pitfall traps reminiscent of Looney Tunes, to the comically named “pooting” method (yes it’s real…look it up!), will give us a better understanding of Round Island’s invertebrate community.
Red-tailed tropic birds can be found in many of the nooks and crannies on the island.
Not a makeshift tent, but a Malaise trap. Just one of the many methods used to survey for invertebrates.
One of the island’s elusive reptiles.
5:00pm – One of the simple pleasures of field work is great food at the end of a hard day. Meals are cooked communally on Round Island, with everyone taking turns to chef. Full bellies and full laughs are the perfect way to decompress.
7:00pm – The days adventures do not always end with dinner. If you’re lucky, the day continues with a nighttime survey seeking some more elusive island reptiles. Because there are no mammals on the island (other than conservationists), the reptile community can thrive. These nocturnal surveys rotate among different habitats, like the bare volcanic rock slope—affectionately nicknamed “the slab”—to the palm savannah, each offering unique insights into reptile populations.
Nothing like ending the day with a nighttime survey.
8:00pm – From plants and bugs to birds and reptiles, each day on Round Island holds new experiences. Although no two days are the same, the feeling of satisfaction as you crawl into your tent at the end of the day, knowing you have played a small part in a greater conservation mission stays consistent.
Until next time!
– Sarah Falconer
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