Conservation heaven for volunteers

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The island nation of Mauritius is not only known for its azure waters, fantastic coral reefs and beautiful scenery, it is also recognised for its extreme species diversity. Many of the species occurring here are found nowhere else on earth, making it a paradise for conservationists and researchers, and a new addition to Worldwide Experience’s list of conservation destinations.

Mauritius views

There is no shortage of work required on this island, making it an ideal location for volunteers who want to get involved in ethical conservation volunteering.

Taryn Ingram-Gillson, director at Worldwide Experience says they have partnered with the Mauritius Wildlife Foundation (MWF), which has strong partnerships with all other conservation organisations in Mauritius. “The MWF coordinates volunteer work with other organisations on the island such as the Mauritius Marine Conservation Society and Birdlife Africa, in line with overall conservation goals for Mauritius,” she explains.

Volunteer duties include tasks such as marine conservation projects, data collection for conservation research, monitoring of endangered species, and the conservation of tortoises, fruit bats and species of rare birds.

Mauritius forms part of the Madagascar and Indian Ocean Islands biodiversity hotspot. Thirty-six biodiversity hotspots around the world are recognised as significant reservoirs for biodiversity threatened by destruction.

Mauritius ornate day gecko. Photo: Scott Osborn

These hotspots are irreplaceable and require urgent protection because of threats like development, farming and encroachment. To be classified as a biodiversity hotspot, the area needs to include at least 1 500 endemic plants and 30% or less of its original natural vegetation.

In the coastal areas of Mauritius, mangrove cover has decreased by 30%, wetlands are under pressure, almost 90% of the local flora is considered threatened, and a number of species have become extinct.

Volunteer accommodation

As much as 39% of the island’s plants occur nowhere else in the world. The forests alone support 691 species of indigenous flowering plants, 52 native species of vertebrates and 30 species of land birds. The marine environment in Mauritius consists of 16 840km² of territorial sea and 1 700 species, including 786 species of fish, 17 species of marine mammals, and two species of marine turtles, making it the perfect spot for conservation initiatives.

“The fact that Mauritius is a small remote island with a high level of endemic species makes these species immediately more vulnerable,” Ingram-Gillson adds. “Challenges include development, farming and the encroachment of non-native species of plants and animals that threaten its wildlife. The impact of disasters such as heavy cyclones also makes Mauritian species extremely vulnerable,” she says.

Anyone interested in volunteering on this island paradise from March 2020 should email info@worldwideexperience.com for details.

 

Written by René de Klerk

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