The diverse and extraordinary endemic birds of Mauritius were considered nothing more than a food source by the early settlers and only 9 of an original 26 species remain. These birds, some of the world’s rarest, were also fast going the way of the dodo until the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust (DWCT) and Mauritius Wildlife Foundation (MWF) stepped in in the 1970s. What followed was a conservation success story, with critically endangered endemics such as the pink pigeon rescued from the brink of extinction through a captive breeding programme.
The island’s only bird of prey, the Mauritius kestrel (Falco punctatus), is another triumph of the programme: once down to two pairs, twenty breeding pairs can now be seen in La Vallée de Ferney, and there are around five hundred birds island-wide. More recently, numbers of the world’s rarest parrot, the echo parakeet (Psittacula echo), have been increased from 25 individuals in the 1980s to over 550 birds in the wild today. Other rare endemics to look out for include the Mauritius cuckoo-shrike (Coracina typica), the Mauritius bulbul (Hypsipetes olivaceus), the pretty Mauritius fody (Foudia rubra) and the Mauritius olive white-eye (Zosterops chloronothos).
The greatest concentration of endemic species in the wild can be found in Black River Gorges National Park, while endemic birds can be seen in captivity at Casela Nature and Leisure Park, in the semi-wild at Île aux Aigrettes and – in the case of the adaptable Mauritius grey white-eye – hopping around hotel gardens.