As I move onto the next phase of my journey as Canada’s New Noah, I am leaving Mauritius and heading to the island of Jersey, United Kingdom, where I will be taking part in the Durrell Endangered Species Management course (DESMAN).
During my time in Mauritius, I have learned countless things: how to cook rotis, how to whistle through my fingers, and how to drive on the left side of the road. But most importantly, I have learned about the importance of hands-on conservation techniques, such as captive breeding, reintroduction, supplemental feeding, and habitat restoration. All of which I learned from my peers, many dedicated conservation biologists.
In conservation, so much of what is accomplished is due to the truly motivated and hardworking people without whom very little, if anything, would be achieved. Work in conservation is at times challenging, and requires a lot of sacrifice; however, when the programs are successful, the results are inspiring and the people involved even more so. Without these passionate and driven individuals, I would not have gleaned as much as I have during these six months in Mauritius. I feel fortunate to have learned about world-renowned conservation programs first-hand from incredibly motivated and impassioned individuals.
I was taught about the reptiles of Round Island by a Swiss man. He would climb steep terrain with ease, zigzagging up steep slopes like a mountain goat, only to look down and kindly tell me to ‘take care’ and watch my step during my ascent. His passion for the Gunther’s geckos and drive to contribute to conservation efforts enable him to do surveys from the early morning to midnight, seven days a week. An intern and I would take turns accompanying him for two days at a time, as neither of us could keep up with his intensive schedule! From him, I learned how to identify, age, and sex four endemic reptile species. He also taught me how to collect reptile morphometric data. Learning from him was such a joy, and his enthusiasm was infectious. His excitement for discovering the 236th Gunther’s nest site was just as palpable as for the first.
I learned how to climb trees to check endangered Mauritius kestrel nest boxes from a strong and wonderful Englishwoman. Through her guidance I was able to climb trees to heights I wouldn’t have thought possible. Her tutelage, encouragement, and support enabled me to supplementally feed Mauritius Kestrel chicks in nest boxes- an experience I won’t soon forget.
A lovely and hardworking Mauritian woman taught me how to catch and handle pink pigeons, a species of birds that nearly became extinct in the 1990s. She showed me how to screen for diseases, such as trichomoniasis which can be fatal to pink pigeons, and how to administer life-saving antibiotics.
A tall and gentle Englishman taught me to identify species of native seedlings. Together we sowed endemic seeds and planted endemic plants that will one day serve to reforest Round Island.
I learned how to collect morphometric data and how to feed Aldabra giant tortoises by a boyish and playful Australian. He would spend his days working with fervour to music, always with a wide grin.
I was shown how to navigate Île aux Aigrettes by a kind and soft spoken Englishman. He taught me innumerable things, such as how to catch geckos, how to identify key species on the island, and various detection methods aimed at detecting the presence and abundance of invasive species.
I learned how to prepare food for the supplemental feeding of Mauritius olive white-eyes from an always smiling and joking Mauritian man. He taught me how to find my way on Île aux Aigrettes, and was incredibly talented at finding nesting birds. He would leave for a walk and return having found two or three new nests. When I asked him about his methods, he explained an unorthodox scheme that he used to find nests. This type of process could only have developed in an island setting where, after having been cut off from others for a few days, things start to get a bit non-sensical. To find nests he would make deals with the birds, telling them that if they showed him their nest, he would leave them right away. He would make promises to go straight back to the kitchen and start preparing food for the following days’ feeds.
A joking and foul-mouthed Englishman, whose delicateness and caring for plants was so endearing and inspirational, taught me most about what I know about the flora of Mauritius. Casually and without any superciliousness he would recite the names for hundreds of Mauritius plants-the common names in French and English, as well as the scientific names.
A German and French man, whose love of order and protocol tend to his German side but his passion for his work and the incredible crêpes he makes every Sunday undeniably show his French heritage, taught me to handle and band seabirds. His guidance and training helped me band my first red-tail tropicbird. A truly amazing experience.
From an Irishwoman, I learned to spot gecko nesting sites, and how develop a better work-life balance. Together with a lovely Mauritian woman, we spent many evenings going for swims and watching the sunset.
I learned from an incredible and always energetic Italian woman to push myself and to take more risks. With her I was able to make the most of my time in Mauritius, and I made incredible memories. Together we banded my last Mauritius olive white-eye on my final morning on Île aux Aigrettes. It was the perfect way to end six-months working on a tropical paradise island with some of the world’s most threatened wildlife.
Even those with whom I didn’t work directly in the field taught me so much by sharing their experiences and stories. My time in Mauritius would have been impoverished without all the amazing people I met. I made several lifelong friends and the people I worked with enriched my time more than I could’ve imagined and taught me so many things I didn’t anticipate having the opportunity to learn. I am so grateful for the opportunity to have learned all of these invaluable skills, to have met all of these wonderful conservationists, and most importantly to the Canada’s New Noah Program that made it possible.