However the dedicated work of environmental teams means that many species indigenous to Mauritius have managed to flourish once again, and can now be enjoyed by wildlife enthusiasts visiting the island.
We explore the intriguing history behind some of the most exciting species of wildlife in Mauritius and how to spot them below.
A history of endangerment
The Dodo could be considered one of the most famous birds in the world, despite being extinct for hundreds of years. This flightless bird was indigenous to Mauritius but was made extinct within a century of the arrival of permanent Dutch settlers in 1598.
The Dodo. Image: Aesop
Its extinction is blamed on a loss of habitat as the Dutch newcomers built settlements, destroying the natural surroundings that the Dodo relied on for shelter and sustenance. Also animals such as cats and rats that were brought to the island on the settlers ships posed a predator threat to the Dodo which also contributed to the demise of the species. These factors also threatened to make other species extinct too as numbers started decreasing rapidly.
Taking action to help the environment
Another indigenous animal that was dangerously close to extinction was the Mauritius kestrel – in 1974 only 4 of these birds were known to exist. Thanks to dedicated captive breeding and species management, the Mauritius kestrel has experienced a 7400% increase in population and visitors can now spot them flying through the sky across the island.
The Mauritian kestrel. Image: Josh Noseworthy
Other species that were previously threatened but have since been protected and revived from near-extinction on the island include the pink pigeon and echo parakeet, the latter of which has seen their population increase by 4900%. Although these species are still considered vulnerable, they are thankfully no longer on the critically endangered list thanks to the tireless work of the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation and conservation organisation Durrell.
How to spot these special species
According to Vikash Tatayah from the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation, they now hold the record for the amount of birds saved from extinction.
Part of the ongoing project to nurture indigenous wildlife on Mauritius was to declare Ile aux Aigrettes an official nature reserve in 1965. The 27 hectare island is around 850m away from mainland Mauritius and has been returned to the dry forest environment that once covered Mauritius.
The Echo Parakeet. Image: Josh Noseworthy
Ile aux Aigrettes is the best place to catch glimpses of some of the rarest wildlife in the world that are indigenous to this area. Wildlife lovers can book tours of conserved island via the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation, which tailor their tours to suit those with interests in a particular area such as photography.
Those hoping to visit the island to experience exotic wildlife up close and personal are advised to wear comfortable walking shoes as the walking tours last between 1.5-2 hours and often cover uneven terrain. Visitors are asked to keep noise to a minimum on their tour to ensure that they have the best possible chance of spotting some of these exceptionally rare birds.