Ile aux Aigrettes

             Ile Aux Aigrettes
        © Jacques de Speville 

 Fast facts
- located in Mahébourg Bay, about 800m off the southeast coast of Mauritius

- this small (26 hectare) island is composed of coralline limestone, partially overlain with sand and humus deposits, the remains of an eroded dune exposed after a drop in sea level some 10,000 years ago

- the last refuge of the dry coastal forest, an ecosystem once common around much of coastal Mauritius

- MWF initiated a habitat restoration project here in 1985, taking over full management of the island in 1987

- since 1998 members of the public have been able to visit the island on a guided tour, to see the restored habitat

Ebony Forest on IAA
 © Photo: N. Cole 
Restoration work on IAA
© MWF 
Pink Pigeon
 Pink Pigeon
© Jacques de Speville 
Giant Aldabra Tortoise
© Jacques de Speville
Telfair Skink
© N. Zuel 

Free from human presence for a long time, Ile aux Aigrettes became a natural museum with a remarkable collection of endemic species of Mauritian fauna and flora. However, the arrival of man on the islet in the early 1600s disturbed and almost totally destroyed this island ecosystem, with logging and land clearance as well as the introduction of exotic plant and animal species. In fact, tree felling, particularly of ebony, continued even after the island was first declared a nature reserve, in 1965.


Restoration work on the island aims to recreate the unique collection of plants and animals in their native habitat similar to its state before the arrival of man. The project began with a weeding programme to eradicate introduced invasive plants such as the faux acacia Leucaena leucocephala and prune malgache Flacourtia indica. This type of forest was once rich in the unique and Critically Endangered species of ebony Diospyros egrettarum, the Endangered bois de chandelle Dracaena concinna, and a species of orchid Oeoniella polystachys, amongst others.

After weeding, the next step was to eradicate introduced predators such as rats, paving the way for the reintroduction of native fauna. Interestingly, once the rats had gone there was a dramatic emergence of ebony seedlings.

In 1997, a nursery was built for the propagation of endangered native plants for replanting on the island. The nursery now produces about 6,000 plants per year of which most are planted on Ile aux Aigrettes, although some are sent to Round Island.  We also donate a few thousand plants to communities and social institutions on Mauritius (thanks to the support of Air Mauritius).

The entire island has now been weeded at least once and replanted with around thirty threatened endemic plant species.

With the re-establishment of native forest on the island we began to reintroduce the endemic species of birds and reptiles, which would once have populated Ile aux Aigrettes. The Mauritius Kestrel was the first species to be reintroduced. However, it transpired that this unique bird of prey prefers the nearby mainland Bambous Mountains, and birds rarely come back to the island.

Pink Pigeons, Mauritius Fodies and Mauritius Olive White-eyes have also been reintroduced, along with the Aldabra Giant Tortoises (to replace the extinct giant tortoise species once found here), Telfair’s Skink and Guenther's Gecko. The beautiful endemic Ornate Day Gecko Phelsuma ornata still occurs on the island naturally. Captive Mauritius Fruit Bats can also be viewed on the island for educational and awareness purposes.

The presence of exotic predators on the island has always been an important issue. Rats present a serious threat to native flora and fauna and despite being eradicated from Ile aux Aigrettes in 1993, they have made subsequent reinvasions. Measures developed and adapted to deal with the rats include poison grids, quarantine and monitoring, which are proving to be effective.

The island has undergone significant development over recent years, with the planning and implementation of the new educational programme (see Learning with Nature) and the cutting of a new pathway.  It has become a showcase for our work, with animal and plant species unique to Mauritius found in a habitat restored as closely as possible to its natural state of 400 years ago. Members of the public are encouraged to visit the island on our ecotours, so that they can experience for themselves this amazing transformation.

Award Winner for Best Amateur Film Category at the 2014 Wildlife Conservation Film Festival (WCFF) held in New York, USA 

To view the film featuring Ile aux Aigrettes,  'Paradise Island: back from the brink" please click here.


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