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Seeing an old friend

On Friday morning, I was finally able to see Mary Jane Raboude. During her ten years as the first REEP, MJ and I had spent a lot of time together. She had visited the US four times for continuing education, to spend time at the Zoo, and to present at conferences.  She always stayed at our home so our family had become close to MJ.  I had not had an opportunity to see her since 2006 so I was anxious to catch up.  MJ is now a teacher in one of the two colleges (Rodriguan term for high school) in Pt. Mathurin where she teaches English.  Needless to say, her English is excellent!  We spent too little time catching up and renewing our friendship before we had to leave for the airport for our flight back to Mauritius.  

Mary Jane Raboude
Mary Jane Raboude, the first Rodrigues Environmental Educator, with a Rodrigues fruit bat (archival photo).
 
At the airport we said our goodbyes to Andrea with promises to continue our support of all the great things happening on Rodrigues.  Joining us in supporting bat conservation on Rodrigues is our long-time partner, the Organization for Bat Conservation.  As well, many of the zoos housing bats in North American have at one time or another during the tenure of the project, contributed to  REEP. Support from zoos exhibiting Rodrigues fruit bats for conservation of  these bats and their environment is key to the ongoing success of the project.  

Our flight to Mauritius was uneventful but apparently the afternoon flight, the one on which Vikash was booked, was cancelled due to technical problems with the plane.  So he spent an extra night on Rodrigues since there are only two flights scheduled per day. 

Rodrigues
Flying into Mauritius from Rodrigues.
 
A taxi met us at the airport and transferred us to our hotel in Tamarin on the southwest coast of Mauritius - the area known as Black River - or Rivière Noire.  Driving here we passed through bustling towns with signs of a strong, developing economy and huge expanses of sugar cane.  Almost all the lowland areas not used for residential building are planted with sugar cane.  This development has helped create a growing economy but like on Rodrigues, destruction of the native forests has led to a depressing wave of extinctions of animals and plants.  Saving the remaining species and forests in the work on MWF on Mauritius.  This organization is responsible for single-handedly saving several species from certain extinction.  For example, Mauritius kestrels, a medium-sized falcon found only here - were reduced to 4 birds but now thanks to intensive captive breeding and reintroduction by MWF are surviving in the wild. 

Mauritius
Signs of a strong economy in Mauritius.
 
After an interesting taxi ride – including an unscheduled stop in model ship building factory – not our idea but our driver’s – we eventually made it to our hotel to drop off bags and then right to the MWF GDEWS – also known as the Aviaries –where much of the captive breeding of Mauritian birds occurs and where the bat colony is housed.  We were greeted on arrival by keepers, Nadine and Danella.  These two women are the true experts on Mauritian birds and Rodrigues fruit bats having worked with them for over a decade at the GDEWS. 
 
By this time it was getting late and we were losing light – darkness falls abruptly at 6:30 p.m. so we needed to immediately start preparing for our bat move. We had shipped unassembled bat travelling crates to the GDEWS and now needed to focus on getting them ready.  Our first task was to put together the inner carriers.  Because fruit bats are considered potential crop pests, to ensure against escape enroute, the International Air Travel Association (IATA) requires them to be shipped in a double-container – essentially a crate within a crate.  There are very specific guidelines for what shipping containers must look like and what regulations they must follow and failure to adhere to these guidelines can mean an airline will refuse to accept the animals for shipment.  This is obviously not the best thing for the animals or for us and we wanted to make sure it did not happen.  Thus we had planned meticulously for this trip. Curators at the Zoo had studied the container requirements and had ensured that we had everything we needed to build a comfortable and safe carrier for the bats that met IATA requirements.   Thanks to the excellent assistance of the GDEWS team we quickly put together all six inner crates and finished just as it got completely dark. We hopped on a bus back to our hotel with plans to return Saturday for more crate assembly.

Sanctuary
Putting together the bat shipment carriers at the Gerald Durrell Endemic Wildlife Sanctuary.


Seeing an old friend

On Friday morning, I was finally able to see Mary Jane Raboude. During her ten years as the first REEP, MJ and I had spent a lot of time together. She had visited the US 4 times for continuing education, to spend time at the Zoo, and to present at conferences.  She always stayed at our home so our family had become close to MJ.  I had not had an opportunity to see her since 2006 so I was anxious to catch up.  MJ is now a teacher in one of the two colleges (Rodriguan term for high school) in Pt. Mathurin where she teaches English.  Needless to say, her English is excellent!  We spent too little time catching up and renewing our friendship before we had to leave for the airport for our flight back to Mauritius.  
 
At the airport we said our goodbyes to Andrea with promises to continue our support of all the great things happening on Rodrigues.  Our flight to Mauritius was uneventful but apparently the afternoon flight, the one on which Vikash was booked, was cancelled due to technical problems with the plane.  So he spent an extra night on Rodrigues since there are only two flights scheduled per day. 
 
A taxi met us at the airport and transferred us to our hotel in Tamarin on the southwest coast of Mauritius - the area known as Black River - or Riviere Noire.  Driving here we passed through bustling towns with signs of a strong, developing economy and huge expanses of sugar cane.  Almost all the lowland areas not used for residential building are planted with sugar cane.  This development has helped create a growing economy but like on Rodrigues, destruction of the native forests has led to a depressing wave of extinctions of animals and plants.  Saving the remaining species and forests in the work on MWF on Mauritius.  This organization is responsible for single-handedly saving several species from certain extinction.  For example, Mauritius kestrels, a medium-sized falcon found only here - were reduced to 4 birds but now thanks to intensive captive breeding and reintroduction by MWF are surviving in the wild. 
 
After an interesting taxi ride – including an unscheduled stop in model ship building factory – not our idea but our driver’s – we eventually made it to our hotel to drop off bags and then right to the MWF Gerald Durrell Endemic Wildlife Sanctuary – also known as the Aviaries –where much of the captive breeding of Mauritian birds occurs and where the bat colony is housed.  We were greeted on arrival by keepers, Nadine and Danella.  These two women are the true experts on Mauritian birds and Rodrigues fruit bats having worked with them for over a decade at the Aviaries. 
 
By this time it was getting late and we were losing light – darkness falls abruptly at 6:30 p.m. so we needed to immediately start preparing for our bat move. We had shipped unassembled bat travelling crates to the Aviaries and now needed to focus on getting them ready.  Our first task was to put together the inner carriers.  Because fruit bats are considered potential crop pests, to ensure against escape enroute, the International Air Travel Association (IATA) requires them to be shipped in a double-container – essentially a crate within a crate.  There are very specific guidelines for what shipping containers must look like and what regulations they must follow and failure to adhere to these guidelines can mean an airline will refuse to accept the animals for shipment.  This is obviously not the best thing for the animals or for us and we wanted to make sure it did not happen.  Thus we had planned meticulously for this trip. Curators at the Zoo had studied the container requirements and had ensured that we had everything we needed to build a comfortable and safe carrier for the bats that still met IATA requirements.   Thanks to the excellent assistance of the Aviaries team we quickly put together all six inner crates and finished just as it got completely dark. We hopped on a bus back to our hotel with plans to return Saturday for more crate assembly.