I’m writing this blog not from the field, but from a wet and cold London café, a far cry from the white sand beach and crystal-clear waters where I snorkeled with sea turtles a few days ago.
Days off on mainland Mauritius are not to be wasted! Left to right: Marie Patinet, Me.
My time in Mauritius has come to a close and the gloomy UK weather, not to mention the 17-hour travel time, has given me plenty of time to reflect on what was truly a once in a lifetime experience.
Seven months ago, I set out from Canada, looking to beef up my CV with new conservation experiences and maybe see a lemur or two on the way to Mauritius. Like many Canadians, my prior knowledge of Mauritius, with the possible exception of its wildlife, was very limited. This meant that while I was extremely excited to embark on this little adventure, I didn’t have any real expectations going in.
Left: Definitely going to miss the view from the summit of Round Island. Scorpion rock in the foreground with Serpent Island in the distance. Right: Going to miss our swimming pool on the island even more!
Well let me tell you something, that little green island we call Mauritius, and more importantly, the people I met there, blew me right out of its turquoise coloured water! Of course, thanks to the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation, my CV is most definitely beefier than ever, with new additions such as seabird monitoring, endemic plant propagation, and island restoration among the highlights. However, it was the people I met whilst there, a community of conservationists from both Mauritius and across the globe, who really made the experience special.
Patiently waiting under the only patch of shade at the landing rock. We’re smiling because we spotted the Coast Guard boat on the horizon. Left to right: Max Tercel, Kirsty Franklin, Me, Dhanu Munasinghe, Rita DeLucco, Beth Govier.
When I tell people back home that I spent the greater part of the last 6 months living on remote uninhabited islands, they often remark that it sounds lonely. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Out on the remote offshore islets, our intensive work schedules flew by, aided in large part by plenty of full belly laughs and the knowledge that we could look forward to the best cooking in a 22km radius for dinner (and crêpes on Sundays courtesy of our fantastic wardens)! Whether I was helping the island restoration interns with the ongoing reforestation efforts or assisting rogue academics with their research projects, I was sure to have a smile on my sweat-covered face.
The wardens and I, executing an absolutely flawless changeover at the Round Island landing rock. From left to right: unidentified MCG agent, Beth Govier, Me, Johannes Chambon
When it came time to jump on the boat and head back to the mainland, I was never sad to leave Round Island, because I knew the biologists on the fauna team, with a few special individuals in particular (you know who you are), would be back at the staff house. Although I’d usually need a few days to rest my weary knees from the trauma which was working on a volcanic islet, our friends on the mainland were always quick to invite us to their field stations. Rather than just laying on the beach (which we most definitely did plenty of as well), I was able to spend time working with some of the world’s most endangered bird species and some of the most genuinely good people I’ve ever had the fortune of meeting.
The skink catching dream team! If you need someone to census the reptile population of your 18th century fort, this is the team to call. From left to right: Dhanu Munasinghe, Rouben Mootoocurpen, Me.
Working in Mauritius was an experience like no other and one which I will remember for the rest of my life. I wish I could take the time to thank every single person who helped to make this experience special but there were just too many of you wonderful people and I’m trying to keep this post relatively short. Friendships were formed, memories were made, and I cannot wait to see what everyone achieves next. So that’s it, chapter closed, and now it’s time for my next adventure to begin: Jersey, here I come.
BONUS! The Natural History Museum in London had a few familiar faces! Left: an extremely rare composite skeleton of the extinct Mauritian Dodo. Right: Eastern Loggerhead Shrikes, one of WPC’s primary conservation efforts, as seen on an original plate of John James Audubon’s book “The Birds of America”.
Canada’s 30th New Noah
Eric grew up in a small town on the shores of Lake Erie, and was fascinated with wildlife from an early age, a passion that he continued through his schooling at the University of Guelph and into his early career as a park naturalist and outreach educator at Killbear Provincial Park. Eric has been an active member of multiple reptile and amphibian recovery teams across Ontario. Most recently, he spent the winter working with the University of Washington on a study examining the interactions between a re-colonizing wolf population and white-tailed deer in Washington.