Mauritius is an island nation of 1.3 million people situated in the Indian Ocean about 700 miles to the east of Madagascar. The island is home to incredibly unique and rare species found nowhere else on the planet, although many have gone extinct in recent decades. One of Earth’s most famous extinct species, the dodo, was a flightless bird endemic to Mauritius. Unfortunately, updates on SDG Goal 15 in Mauritius reveal ongoing problems for biodiversity in the country.
The U.N. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 15, Life on Land, tracks each nation’s attempt to “protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.” For this goal, Mauritius has the dire U.N. classification of “major challenges remain.” Still, valiant organizations are striving to protect the stunning species and ecosystems found in Mauritius. Here are four updates on SDG Goal 15 in Mauritius.
4 Updates on SDG Goal 15 in Mauritius
- The mean area protected in terrestrial sites is important to biodiversity. This statistic is particularly important in Mauritius’s case due to the array of endemic species found on the island. The average area protected for these crucial sites is just over 9%. However, limited protection poses major challenges for protecting biodiversity and preventing native species from going extinct. Despite the efforts of groups like the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation, the average protected area has risen by less than 1% since 2000. The fascinating species found within these habitats, like the extraordinary Mauritian flying fox, contribute to the beauty and wonder of the natural world. This may disappear if protected areas do not grow.
- Mauritius’ score on the Red List of species survival is getting worse. The Red List measures “the change in aggregate extinction risk across groups of species” with zero being the worst rating and one being the best. Mauritius comes in at 0.39 with its score decreasing steadily each year. Unfortunately, more and more species in Mauritius go extinct every year. There are, however, some success stories. For example, the Saint Telfair’s skink is an abnormally large species of skink (a type of lizard) only found on islands off the coast of Mauritius. The skink used to be dangerously near-extinct, with just 5,000 individuals. But the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation and the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust‘s careful recovery efforts have raised the population to 50,000 individuals. Thus, NGOs are fighting to save species from extinction in Mauritius.
- Mauritius struggles with the effects of permanent deforestation. This phenomenon occurs when people cut down trees for urbanization or agriculture with no plan to re-plant them. Updates on SDG Goal 15 in Mauritius are the most positive for this statistic. However, challenges remain, as less than 2% of Mauritius’ original forest coverage survives. According to Douglas Adams in “Last Chance to See,” “[v]ast swathes of the Mauritius forest have been destroyed to provide space to grow a cash crop [sugar] which in turn destroys our teeth.” Thankfully, NGOs like Fondation Ressources et Nature are carrying out reforestation projects in Mauritian biodiversity hotspots. The One Million Trees Project also aims to plant one million trees in Mauritius by 2030.
- Imports threaten terrestrial and freshwater biodiversity in Mauritius. There is only one nation (Guyana) in the entire world that has a worse ranking than Mauritius in this category. Industrialized nations like the U.S., Canada, Japan and many E.U. countries also struggle with this goal. However, none come close to Mauritius’s ranking. Furthermore, imports that threaten biodiversity in Mauritius only compound the rest of the island’s ecological problems.
Overall, the forecast for life on land and in Mauritius is grim. Biodiversity hotspots are severely threatened, leading to more species going extinct each year. Additionally, permanent deforestation decimates habitats, and Mauritians’ dependence on imports ravages native species. The country needs to make a concerted effort to save its amazing organisms and environments found nowhere else on Earth. Organizations like the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation are already doing this work, and they could use more international support if Mauritius is to progress on SDG Goal 15.
– Spencer Jacobs