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Inquiring minds: Exploring the topic of wildlife on Mauritius

Jim and Jane Hildebrand are on a four-month vacation to Mauritius and South Africa. Students from the Grade 9 English class at J.M. Olds Collegiate in Twillingate pose questions to them about their experiences and the locale. Keep looking to the Pilot for future questions from students and travel highlights.

Q. Jenna-Mae Blake: Does Mauritius have a national animal? Or, have you seen any new and interesting wildlife?

A. Jim Hildebrand: The national animal of Mauritius is the dodo. Unfortunately, the flightless bird was hunted by the early settlers of the island and it is believed to have become extinct around 1662. The bird grew to about 1 metre in height and weighed approximately 10-17.5 kilograms. We saw some skeletons of the dodo at a museum but were not allowed to take pictures.

From what I have read there were no land animals, whatsoever, on the island when the Dutch first arrived in 1598. There are now deer which were imported from Java and wild boar. There are chickens, goats, dogs and cats. We saw a mongoose. The mongoose were also imported to the island to keep down the rodent population (from destroying the sugar crops). Even the rats were imported, coming in off the sailing ships.

There are many colourful birds to be seen. There are also lots of tropical fish around the coral reefs. There are also giant turtles.

The dogs in Mauritius are a problem. There are strays everywhere and many look malnourished. Dogs are on the roads, at the beaches, everywhere you turn. There doesn’t seem to be any type of control. If there is, it is not very effective.

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