STORIES By Heritage Resorts - Issue 3 - 2019 - Page 47



|NATURE
OUR ADVENTURE IN THE HEART
OF NATURE
THE BIOSPHERE, CONSERVATION
AND RESEARCH AREA
A 4x4 type safari leads us to the
entrance of the reserve. This zone
of transition to the biosphere
is, against all expectations,
populated by Florida pines – a
secondary (or commercial) forest
planted to generate employment
in the 1970s.
Since the 1970s, an exceptional
collaboration between the National
Parks and Conservation Service,
the Forestry Service, the Mauritian
Wildlife Foundation and the private
sector (CBSO) has saved several
species of endemic birds from
extinction such as the kestrel,
the pink pigeon and the big
echo parakeet.
Our group crosses a small bridge
to reach the central conservation
area and faces a landscape of
great beauty. A stream in the
shade of the canopy evokes the
passage of the torrent of Paul et
Virginie, and its soft and rhythmic
lapping complements the song of
birds and the rustle of the leaves.
The Bel Ombre biosphere actively
protects these birds by providing
shelters where they can brood and
feeders inaccessible to predators.
“But our goal is not to make them
dependent,” says Jean Claude.
Forest phenology – in other words
the study of seasonal events
such as flowering, leafing and
fruiting – allows site researchers to
assess the availability of naturally
accessible food resources, and to
close the feeders when birds can,
somehow, fend for themselves!
On the way to “Bon Courage”, a
trail formerly used by hunters,
Jean Claude enthusiastically
introduces us to many endemic
plant species such as the patte
de lézard (literally: lizard’s foot)
fern, the vacoas
and the majestic
“I LOVED THIS IDEA BECAUSE,
bois de natte. We
stop in front of
SINCE I DIDN’T KNOW ANYTHING
a bicentennial
ABOUT MAURITIUS, I HAD TO START
ebony tree,
astonished by its
FROM SCRATCH”.
splendour, and
we take turns to
wrap our arms around it, while
our guide looks on, amused.
THE ENDEMIC SPECIES OF THE
ISLAND
TRÉSOR ÉPHÉMÈRE
Dried Old World climbing fern; dried
vacoas branches; dried vacoas fruits;
ficus stem and figs; black ebony
fruits and leaves; Vittaria fern leaves;
banana fruit and leaves; orchid
leaves; orchid flowers, dried tree
fern petiole, monarch fern root;
bois tambour flower bud; moss;
pink pigeon feather; large echo
parakeet feather.
44
Liane violon séchée, branches séchées
de vacoa, fruits séchés de vacoa, tige et
figues de ficus, fruits et feuilles de bois
d’ébène noir, feuilles de fougère ficelle,
fruits et feuilles de bois banane, feuilles
d’orchidée, fleurs d’orchidée poule,
pétiole séchée de fandia, racine de
fougère polypode, bouton floral de bois
tambour, mousse, plume de pigeon des
mares, plume de grosse cateau verte.
| HERITAGE RESORTS STORIES
Formed 8 million years ago by
a series of underwater volcanic
eruptions, Mauritius was not
exactly a tropical paradise at its
genesis. Plants and animals came
to the island in different ways.
While some species “actively”
found their way by swimming or
flying, others allowed themselves
to be carried by the wind or
clung to fragments of floating
vegetation. Isolated from the rest
of their family, they have adapted
to their new environment to such
an extent that we now speak of
them as “endemic” species, since
they do not exist anywhere else.
HERITAGE RESORTS STORIES |
45
The biosphere is therefore under
continuous surveillance, but
the team must also regularly
weed invasive plants such as the
strawberry guava. Indeed, some
endemic plants such as ox tree
or Hibiscus genevii are currently
critically endangered – not to
mention all those that the island
has already lost following the
invasion of exotic species or
overexploitation. “Our long-term
goal,” concludes Jean Claude, “is
to expand the biosphere so that it
includes, ideally, the entire Black
River Gorges National Park.” An
ambitious project, but essential.
With only 2% of primary forests left,
Mauritius, more than ever, needs
enthusiasts like Jean Claude and
the Heritage Nature Reserve team
to protect its species and raise
public awareness on the urgency
of conservation.

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