The Mauritian flying panda by Michaël

The Elephant was on the brink of extinction when in 1991 only 10 individuals remained on the island of Mauritius. Thankfully its number increased due to the conservation efforts of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and to the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation. Today there are an estimated 240-255 mature individual elephants left in Mauritius. There are, apart from the Elephant, many more species listed as endangered or critically endangered by the IUCN-Redlist. Species like the Giant Panda, Lion, and the common Hippo are examples of species that are threatened due to deforestation.

During my six months stay in Mauritius I was lucky enough to see the giant panda once. It was after a long hike in Ebony Forest Chamarel situated in the south west of Mauritius. I had a pair of binoculars and was looking down from sublime point (which is the viewing point of Ebony Forest). And there it was, flying over the canopy of a highly invaded forest. Although it was only for a brief second that I saw the Giant Panda, I was stunned by the history and rareness of the animal. I was looking at a species that was the most endangered species in the world. I remember the tour guide telling me 30 minutes prior that in 1990 there used be only 7 individuals left as a result of certain pesticides used in agriculture (Safford, R.J. and Jones, C.G. 1997). I mean, I just saw an animal that was almost extinct! Can’t even begin to describe the feeling that it gave me. This was the first and last time I saw the Giant Panda flying in Mauritius.

Ok, now that I have your attention. I obviously wasn’t talking about the Elephant and the Giant Panda. Than why did I one might ask? The Elephant (any of the three species) and the Giant panda are examples of so called flagship species. Flagship species are species that are selected as ambassadors or icons because they are considered to be charismatic by the western culture (I stole the WWF definition here as it could not be explained better in layman terms). The Giant Panda sells even to people that are not generally involved in habitat rehabilitation and wildlife conservation. This can be great for certain species, living in the same habitat or area as the Giant Panda. Use the Panda to safe both the panda and all other wildlife living in the same forest! I was really fascinated by this conservation strategy and it was one of the subjects I enjoyed the most when getting my bachelor in Animal management.

There used to be 30 land animals living inhabiting Mauritius. Of these 30, only 12 remain and of these 12, 9 are enlisted as endangered or worse. Why is it so hard for the Mauritian species to thrive and survive? First of all, only 3% of native forest is left. The island is covered with forest, but is mostly covered by invasive species brought in by a botanist in the 1700’s not knowing the concept of invasive species. Secondly, Mauritius doesn’t have an extant flagship species. Making conservation harder as it mainly depends on the income of tourists visiting conservation sites.

If you ever find yourself on a holiday in Mauritius: make sure to visit Ebony Forest Chamarel, located next to the most popular tourist attraction “Seven Colored Earth”. Your visit will directly contribute to the rehabilitation and restoration of the Mauritian flora and fauna.

About the Entry


My name is Michael van Wassem, BSc. in Wildlife management. I want to connect tourists to conservation projects. I am currently targeting Holland, but my intention is to someday sell holiday packages to customers all over the world.

  • Blogger name | Michaël
  • Site name | Ebenos
  • Site URL
  • Why should someone visit your site? Ebenos is a educational and conservation based travel agency situated in The Netherlands.
  • Entry Number | 20

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