Mauritius Kestrels threatened

An African Development Bank funded road in Mauritius could devastate part of the forest heartland of the Mauritius Kestrel Falco punctatus, one of the world’s flagship conservation success stories.

According to Bird life international, the South-Eastern Highway to pass through the Mauritius east coast mountains' Important Bird Area (IBA) would cut a swathe through some of the last remaining good quality forest in this part of Mauritius.

The kestrel was once the world’s rarest bird. From near extinction in the 1970s, its population has grown to between 800 and 1000 individuals, thanks to a captive breeding and reintroduction programme run by the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation and the Government of Mauritius, working with international partners including the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and The Peregrine Fund.

The recovery of the Mauritius Kestrel is one of the world’s greatest species conservation success stories. The south-eastern forest is home to half the world population, centred around the Ferney Valley, where the first reintroductions took place. Ferney Valley is in the path of both proposed routes for the new highway.

"Kestrels hunt for geckos inside the forest and require a habitat with high tree canopy and little undergrowth for their survival," according to the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation (MWF), the island’s biggest conservation NGO.

"This type of forest is typical of native forest and this area still contains a significant amount of relatively good habitat. Opening up the forest by building a road speeds up the invasion of the habitat by introduced species and leads to its rapid degradation, not only during the disturbance while the road is being built, but also afterwards, as it acts as a corridor for invasive animals and plants to travel along."

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