Tortoise support us

Wednesday, April 19, 2023
Blue Bay, Grand Port District, Mauritius
I had arranged for a taxi to pick us up at 9:30 this morning to take us to the airport with a stop at the François Leguat Reserve, which has as its goal to recreate the conditions on Rodrigues before humans arrived. Leguat was a Huguenot (French Protestant) who fled France after the Edict of Nante (which had allowed Protestants to practice their beliefs freely and legally) was revoked in 1689. He along with a group of nine other Huguenot men landed on Rodrigues in 1691 to start a colony. 
There were no women in the party, and the men grew unhappy with their situation, so two years later they built a boat and sailed to Mauritius, most of them made their way back to Europe, and Leguat spent the rest of his life in England. He wrote a book about his adventures in the Indian Ocean. He mentioned several species of birds that are not extinct, one related to the dodo, and several species of tortoises that were also hunted to extinction. Sailors in search of meat could easily catch the lumbering reptiles, which could go without food and water for as long as 40 days.
It is estimated that when humans first made landfall on Rodrigues it had the highest density of tortoises (land turtles) anywhere on earth. Within 100 years there were none left, around 300,000 were taken for food by passing mariners.
The center has brought in three kinds of tortoises. Aldabra (the big ones) and radiated tortoises (named for ray-like markings on the shells) were brought from Mauritius.  The endangered ploughshare tortoise has recently been introduced from Madagascar. They have a growth under their chin that resembles a plowshare. They are all reproducing well. There are over 3000 tortoises in the reserve now which is also replanting indigenous trees, which were heavily cut for fuel and lumber over the years.
At 10:30 a guide took us out to show us the smaller tortoises, behind fences for protection. Then we entered an area where we could see the giant aldabras. These can actually climb stairs, but they won’t try to come back down, they instinctively fear rolling on their backs which can be fatal since it puts weight on their lungs and eventually suffocates them. One was trying to climb the stairs we were descending. Marjolaine had to do some gymnastics to get around the big guy.
They enjoy having their necks scratched and will stretch out into a picturesque pose when treated this way. It’s quite fun. I’ve had the chance to interact with aldabras on Mauritius and Madagascar, but it’s been a while so we both had fun interacting with them. Their just reptiles, so not very smart at all, one can’t form a relationship with a reptile the way one can with a mammal, though they’re not, they look wise, thoughtful, and noble.
There was a goat among the tortoises. She had wondered in among them when young and took a liking to them. Her owner came and took her home, but she escaped and came back to her friends. So the center paid the owner and now she lives full time among the turtles. When we saw here she was lying surrounded by a big group, which didn’t mind her presence at all. The guide says she sometimes stands on one rather flat-shelled aldabra so she can get at tender leaves higher up on trees.
After a very interesting visit, we had lunch in the little restaurant. I had goat curry; Marjolaine a vegetable curry, both tasty. Then we went back to the taxi-van for the short drive to the airport. The driver had asked earlier what I did for a living. On the drive to the airport, he wanted to talk about God, and how without Him, life has no meaning. It was a brief but thoughtful discussion.
The flight back to Mauritius went smoothly and on time. THere were some fascinating cloud formations on the flight back. Bright white on deep blue is a striking contrast.
On arrival I picked up a car and we drove back to the same hotel as before, which I had reserved again. The Internet works well there, and it’s good place for Marjolaine’s daily swim. The water is clear and very warm, two key elements for her.
We stopped at a supermarket on the way to the hotel, and bought some food for dinner. I had my sandwich saved from the flight box they gave us, Marjolaine bought a salad. We relaxed in the afternoon and I got caught up on some more preparation for the ILP. We’ll be buying plane tickets up to the very last moment.
Tomorrow will be our last day in Mauritius.
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Margaret V

Hello Mr. and Mrs Meeker, So pleased that Mrs. Meeker is feeling better. Glad you enjoyed your side trip to see the tortoises. It's great they are being reintroduced to that area. Continued prayers for the rest of your trip.


How fun to see the goat and tortoise photos. It's encouraging to see successful efforts to rebuild the tortoise population and replant the indigenous trees. How positive! Glad you had such a fun break!

Tess Washington

What a fun & pleasant day! An interesting note about a reptile and a mammal animal. Are tortoises considered a sea creature, created on the 5th day? Thank you for the photos, your travel blog came out more alive with it! As the saying goes, "a picture is worth a thousand words!"