Vacancy for a new dodo

IMG_4009By Fabiola Monty, TBA Alumna – Kibale 2010

While the dodo is famous around the world as the symbol of extinction, the country it once used to inhabit may be less known. That country is my home island, Mauritius, that little speck in the South Western part of the Indian Ocean.

As my mentor has explained to me once, Mauritius despite its size is a very interesting case study for conservationists. It is one of the last country to be colonized and yet it has shown one of the fastest and greatest biodiversity loss. As an island, it also has high endemicity among its native species, meaning many species lost here are completely gone. 30 unique plant species, 2 unique bat species, 8 unique bird species, 5 unique reptile species and so many more invertebrate species, ALL robbed from us.

Paradoxically, Mauritius has also been an international  model of conservation success in the past decades with its successful bird recovery programmes. With species like the Mauritian Kestrel being brought back from the brink of extinction, when there was only 4 individuals left in the 1970s.

But today, Mauritius is a model of another kind. It is showing the world how facts and scientific-based arguments can be completely ignored during decision making, despite these being communicated to policy makers. It is showing the world how international agreements like the Convention on Biological Diversity, of which Mauritius is a signatory, can be easily disregarded by decision-makers in favor of questionable decisions.

Photography: Jacques de Speville
Meet the Mauritian fruit bat. Photography: Jacques de Speville

Because at the moment the Mauritian government has agreed that (1) there is too many individuals of the endemic and threatened Mauritian fruit bat, (2) that they are causing extensive damage and economic losses to fruit farmers, (3) this threatened species has reached pest level and (4) its population will be controlled. The target: getting the population down by 20 % and thus 18,000 bats are going to be killed. This decision that was put forward as an urgently needed action, goes against all scientific evidences that prove that the impact of the bats has been largely exaggerated and that culling will not address the problem targeted by the government. Please refer to this letter by Bat Conservation International presented to the Ministry of Agro Industry and Food Security in Mauritius before they made the decision, and that explain all the scientific evidence.

Photography: Jacques de Speville
Photography: Jacques de Speville

As stated by the IUCN SSC bat specialist group: “The Mauritius Fruit Bat has shown substantial range contraction since it once also had populations on the islands of Rodrigues and Réunion. The remaining population on Mauritius is consequently very important and the implementation of a cull will very likely result in an up-listing of the species from Vulnerable to Endangered or Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List, which will damage the reputation of Mauritius as a world leader on conservation.”

It seems like Mauritius has learned nothing from its history and is looking for a replacement for the dodo because after all, we should be proud to be  associated with the world’s symbol of human-caused extinction. The Mauritian fruit bat has clearly been chosen as the right candidate for this role.

Please join the Campaign as we say NO to culling of the Mauritian fruit bat.

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