Sailors introduced rabbits and goats to Mauritius’ Round Island many centuries ago. Their intensive grazing transformed the once-lush, palm savannah-clad island into something closer to a lunarscape, wiping out rare birds, reptiles and plants.
Round Island was designated a nature reserve in 1957, and in the 1970s Durrell led a campaign to eradicate the rabbits and goats. More recently, we helped design efforts to remove invasive weeds from the island, which proliferated after the rabbits and goats were removed.
Round Island is now returning to its former glory. Reptile populations including skinks, geckos and snakes have recovered to the point that they are being reintroduced to other Mauritian islands. In 2012 we led efforts to move 60 Round Island Boas to another island to create a second population.
We also helped our partner, the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation, to introduce Aldabran Giant Tortoises to Round Island to replace the important ecological role in engineering the palm savannahs and ebony forests once performed by the extinct Mauritian Giant Tortoise.
While Durrell exists to protect and increase animal populations, sometimes our only option is to do the very opposite: to control a non-native species that threatens indigenous animals, plants and ecosystems.
Invasive species include rats, goats, rabbits and snakes that were introduced by humans, sometimes accidentally.
Their impact through predation or grazing can be astonishing, rapidly wiping out native populations and destroying habitats. Invasive species are the biggest threat in our conservation programmes.
We’ve worked with local agencies in 30 successful campaigns to eradicate invasive species on small islands, mainly around Mauritius and the Caribbean. We always remove them in the most humane way possible, keeping our eye on the end goal of restoring the natural ecosystem and saving species from extinction.