Some background on Mauritius

By Tim Georoff, Associate Veterinarian

Very privileged and honored to represent the Philadelphia Zoo on a trip to Mauritius to accompany 30 captive Rodrigues fruit bats back to the Zoo. The Republic of Mauritius is an island nation located about 1200 miles off the southeast coast of the African continent in the Indian Ocean, which includes the principal island of Mauritius, Rodrigues (the only home of the Rodrigues fruit bat), and several smaller outlying islands and archipelagos. The island of Mauritius is about the same size as the Hawaiian island of Maui. Mauritius itself is a cultural melting pot with influences from the African continent, India, and China, as well as the Dutch, French, and British, due to their prior colonial rule. The island has developed a unique culture because of this.
 
Mauritius is also home to many unique island endemic species. Mauritius was the only home of the dodo, a large flightless relative of the pigeon, which became extinct in the late 1600s due to human exploitation and influence of introduced species. The dodo has become a symbol of species extinction and was used in our own Philadelphia Zoo X*Tink*Shun puppet shows for that same reason. Images of the dodo are all over the island marketed to tourists as a unique symbol of Mauritius but also serve as a reminder of the gravity of species extinction and the importance of the role that zoos and conservation organizations serve in preserving current endangered species.
 
This is my first time visiting the island. I'm looking forward to learning more about the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation projects, the bats, and the zoos support of conservation work on the islands. Both Kim Lengel (the Zoo’s Vice President for Conservation and Education who was been involved with conservation efforts in Mauritius and Rodrigues for many years) and I finally arrived after about 20 hours of flight time. Tomorrow is our flight to Rodrigues.

map of mauritius
Poster of the island of Mauritius

10/02/2013 : Back in the States

It’s 6:30 a.m. New York time and we’re here. Our job now is to get back to the Zoo as quickly as possible.

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10/01/2013 : Heading back

We checked the bats and they all looked alert. They had eaten well during the night – a good sign that they were settled in.

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09/30/2013 : Catching spiders

Tim, an avid kayaker, was determined not to leave Mauritius without kayaking in the Indian Ocean.  So he was up very early on Monday for a sunrise kayak on the bay.  He and his guide had a great hour, kayaking with a group of spinner dolphins! 

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09/29/2013 : Tourist Time

We took a long bus ride to Quatre Bonnes for the weekly market where we had a chance to pick up some souvenirs for family, friends, and coworkers. 

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09/28/2013 : Getting ready for the move

Back in our rooms after dinner, I heard the distinctive sound of fruit bats breeding.  I pinpointed the noise to a nearby mango tree and using a flashlight, I picked up the eyeshine of two Mauritius fruit bats – Pteropus niger – in the tree.

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09/28/2013 : Rare birds in Mauritius

The aviary is only a short ride away from our hotel and houses some of the rarest avian species in the world. The aviary used to be a big center for captive propagation and reintroduction but now currently houses mostly injured or non-releasable specimens, with the exception of the bats. 

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09/27/2013 : Seeing an old friend

On Friday morning, I was finally able to see Mary Jane Raboude. During her ten years as the first REEP, MJ and I had spent a lot of time together. She had visited the US 4 times for continuing education, to spend time at the Zoo, and to present at conferences.  She always stayed at our home so our family had become close to MJ. 

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09/26/2013 : Anse Quitor and Francois Leguat Tortoise Park

This site is more challenging, in some ways, than Grand Montagne.  While it’s generally easier to access – no cliff faces to deal with –because it’s so dry and because wandering domestic animals are more of a problem, reforestation is slower going here.

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09/26/2013 : Touring Rodrigues

Very proud to be a part of an organization that has played such a major role in saving a species.

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09/25/2013 : Off to Rodrigues

Some more background on how the Philly Zoo became a champion for endangered bats half way around the world. 

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09/24/2013 : Some background on Mauritius

The Republic of Mauritius is an island nation located about 1200 miles off the southeast coast of the African continent in the Indian Ocean, which includes the principal island of Mauritius, Rodrigues (the only home of the Rodrigues fruit bat), and several smaller outlying islands and archipelagos.

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09/24/2013 : Arriving in Mauritius

I'm so excited to return the island where I did my graduate work almost 20 years ago.  It's hard to believe I've been working to conserve Rodrigues fruit bats for that long.

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09/23/2013 : Traveling to Mauritius

Veterinarian Dr. Tim Georoff and I left Monday morning from JFK airport in NYC for our flight to Mauritius by way of Johannesburg, South Africa.  We're travelling all this way for the primary purpose of accompanying 30 Rodrigues fruit bats back to the Zoo from the long-time captive colony of bats at the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Center in Mauritius.

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