The Old Forest
Posted onAugust 3, 2022by|,
Ile aux Aigrettes, Mauritius – Under the dense canopy of palms and hardwoods that are home to rare birds and reptiles, Ile aux Aigrettes (IAA), a small island only 850 meters off the southeast coast of mainland Mauritius, feels like a whole other world. The restoration of this coastal island is the result of decades of work and a combination of conservation techniques.
The stars of IAA are undoubtably the charismatic Aldabra giant tortoises. This species of giant tortoise is originally from the Seychelles and was introduced as an analogue species to the extinct Mascarene tortoise species. Juvenile tortoises are headstarted under the care and careful monitoring of the Island Restoration team. My days start with a feeding frenzy as baby tortoises vie to get their favourite foods – carrots and pumpkin!
Giant tortoise health check.
Enjoying the view of mainland Mauritius overlooking the forest canopy.
Afternoons on IAA are spent surveying for another remarkable but far more elusive inhabitant of the island, the Günther’s gecko.
The geckos are experts at hiding in their canopy habitat so it’s immensely satisfying to call out “Günther!” when you spot one during a survey.
Unlike the tortoises, this species is endemic to the Mascarenes but became restricted to Round Island more than 150 years ago due to habitat loss and invasive species. In 2010 Günther’s geckos were translocated to Ile aux Aigrettes to establish an insurance population. Now, twelve years later, I’m helping the Island Restoration team continue to monitor the gecko population on IAA, showing the long-term commitment necessary to ensuring the success of a population reintroduction.
Unfortunately, the threat of invasive species to native reptiles on IAA is ongoing due to the island’s proximity to the mainland. Each day, the team and I monitor a network of detection stations around the island looking for early signs of any unwanted arrivals.
Found ya! An ornate day gecko spotted during a survey.
Playing hide and seek with a Gunther’s gecko in an artificial refuge site.
Beautiful Ile aux Aigrettes
In my time on IAA, I’ve experienced many conservation techniques ‘in action’ and considered how they can be applied to conservation efforts back in Canada. All the wildlife on the island from the tortoises and geckos to pink pigeons and olive white-eyes are testament to the success of these techniques and the commitment to conservation in Mauritius.
Until next time,
Check back often for new blog updates. In the meantime, check out the other great work being done by WPC to save some of Canada’s most endangered species.