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Paupiah Seemadree Appanah (Hans)


The Republic of Mauritius consists of the main island of Mauritius and a group of small islands scattered in the South West Indian Ocean namely: Rodrigues, the Cargados carajos (St. Brandon), Agalega, Tromelin and the Chagos Archipelagos (Diego Garcia). The total land area is 2 040 km2 and the population is around 1.2 million.

Colonized successively by the Dutch, French and British, the island of Mauritius had known three centuries of deforestation. The native forests, which originally covered the island, have almost disappeared with the exception of a few inaccessible areas which have been mostly declared as nature reserves and national parks. The upland degraded native forests have been reafforested with fast-growing species and form the bulk of the forest plantation in Mauritius.

To date there is only about 57 059 hectares of forest lands, of which 21 867 hectares is state-owned and the rest (more than 50%) is privately owned. However, due to proper management, there is considerably more growing stock in state forests than in private forests. The private forest owners are not keen to invest in forest plantations as the returns takes a long time and the capital is exposed to a lot of risks (e.g. cyclones, fire, theft), and there is little hope for this situation to improve in the foreseeable future.

Table 1. The forest land of Mauritius may be classified as follows:


(i) State Forest Land (area in ha)

(a) Plantations

12 672

(b) National parks

6 574

(c) nature reserves


    * On mainland


    * On islets


(d) unplanted, protective or to be planted

1 822


21 867


Pas Géométriques

(a) Plantations


(b) Leased for grazing and tree planting


(d) unplantable, protected or to be planted




Grand total

22 519


(ii) Privately owned Forest lands

(a) reserves protected by law


    * Mountain reserves

3 800

    * River reserves

2 740

    * Nature reserve



6 553

(b) forest lands, including scrub and grazing lands


Figures not available but estimated at ...

27 987

Overall total

57 059

Forest functions

Protective & environmental

By virtue of their strategic location, the upland forests play a vital role in soil and water conservation. They help to maintain hydrological cycles, regulating and stabilizing runoff, and acting as a buffer against extreme events such as flood and drought. Deforestation results in siltation of catchment waterways and reservoirs, loss of water yield and quality, and degradation of aquatic habitat, among other things.

The native forests of Mauritius are the habitat of a host of indigenous flora and fauna with a high level of endemism. The conservation of biological diversity is regarded as one of the most important environmental roles played by forests in small islands.

Coastal forests act as buffers against cyclones and strong winds, which are common in Mauritius. In addition, mangroves serve as feeding, breeding and nursery grounds for numerous commercial fish and shellfish, including shrimps. These coastal forests act as a sediment trap for upland runoff, thereby reducing water turbidity and protecting sea grass beds and near-shore coral reefs from siltation. By maintaining the coral reefs, which, in turn protect beaches from sand erosion, it can be said that coastal forests play an indirect role in the tourism industry in Mauritius.


Wood Products: Forests provide timber, poles and fuelwood for industrial agricultural and domestic consumption. However, due to its small size, there is limited timber production on the island. Only about 30% of the local demand are met by local production. Consequently, Mauritius is a net importer of timber. Forest plantations consist mainly of fast growing exotics. The following tables give distribution of the plantations by types and annual production of wood.


Area (hectares)


Pinus elliottii

8 232


Cryptomeria japonica & Araucaria cunninghamii

1 601


Eucalyptus & Casuarina

2 039


Other hardwood




12 672


Local Production (1998)

State Forest Lands

Volume (m3)


7 491


2 232


7 512

Non wood products: The non-wood products of the forests in Mauritius consist mainly of venison, feral monkeys, fruits, honey, fodder, fibre and medicinal plants. These products are valued, and they illustrate the multiple use of forests.


Forests provide recreation, and it is a fact that forest recreation in on the rise in Mauritius. The aesthetic qualities of the native forests with their high level of biodiversity and spectacular breath-taking panoramic views attract many. People value such areas for a variety of recreational pursuits: photography, hiking, sightseeing, camping, fishing, hunting, scientific and ecological study, gathering forest fruits such as goyave de chine etc. The ecotourism potential of these forests is already being exploited by the private sector.

Role of Forestry Sector in the National Economy

Today, although the forest areas are limited in size, most of them are strategically located in the uplands. By virtue of their location, they play a vital role in soil and water conservation. This protective function is of great relevance and significance to the national economy as most of the sugarcane plantations are located at mid altitude and lowland. Another significant contribution is the protective role played by coastal forests against coral reefs deterioration and sand beach erosion which are so important in the tourism industry.

Moreover, the forests of Mauritius provide direct and indirect employment to about 9 000 people in the various forestry sub sectors e.g. creation and maintenance of forest resources, logging, sawmilling, deer ranching, wildlife export, secondary wood processing etc. The contribution of the forest sector to GDP is estimated to be around 1%. However, the protective and environmental roles of forests are not taken into consideration in this evaluation - which would substantially increase this figure.

The different stakeholders in the forestry sector have a wide range of interests and activities. The activities of the private sector are profit-driven while those of the public institutions are not necessarily motivated by profit. Government invests in the protection of existing state-owned forests and in the creation of new forest plantations. The private forests are mostly owned by the Sugar Estates, and the main activities thereon are deer ranching, ecotourism and very limited timber production. The management of private forests is more geared towards deer ranching rather than timber production. It is a fact that private forests are more vulnerable for conversion than State forests.

Factors that may affect (or influence) the Forestry Sector of Mauritius in the next 2 decades

1. Socio-economic changes

_ population = 1.2 million - growing at a rate of 1.3%;

_ already overpopulated;

_ pressure on forest resources will be intense;

_ inevitable conversion of some forest areas for agriculture, infrastructural and housing developments;

_ G.D.P. (1999): Rs 90,435 m, expected to triple in 2020;

_ agriculture more or less saturated - Industrialization will continue (Growth in industry and service sectors);

_ demand for forest recreation will keep on rising with some possible negative impacts (littering, trampling, soil deterioration).

2. Demand of forest products

_ very limited timber production;

_ will always be a net importer of timber;

_ demand for furniture timber will rise significantly - Expansion of furniture and ship-model industry (export oriented);

_ ecolabelling (certification of timber): expected significant rise in the prices of forest products with consequent impact on the local wood based industry;

_ increase in the value of non-wood forest products.

3. Agricultural development

_ considerable expansion of agriculture over forest lands since colonization Threat of forest conversion still exist;

_ sugar quota (500 000 & 85 000 tons);

_ some privately-owned forest lands will be coveted and possibly converted to sugar cane plantations;

_ threat from pasture development (livestock).

4. Consumption of fuelwood

_ keep on declining since the end of 1980s;

_ more and more people shift to gas-energy for cooking and heating purposes. Pressure on forests for fuelwood has been reduced considerably;

_ new trend in the use of firewood - converted into chips and shavings for use mainly in the poultry industry. Consequently demand is expected to remain stable.

5. Ecotourism development

_ high potential (rich biodiversity - high level of endemism/spectacular panoramic views);

_ investment in ecotourism is expected to rise significantly (complements the primary attractions: sand, sea and sun);

_ positive impact in the Forestry Sector;

_ contributes in the conservation of biodiversity (owners of native forests are keen to protect and rehabilitate their forests);

_ other benefits: employment, foreign currency and infrastructural development.

6. Policy

_ forest policy is being revised - SFM, conservation of biological diversity and environmental function of forests will have great importance;

_ future trend: more priority on native forests and conservation works;

_ extension of the network of national parks and nature reserves;

_ privately owned forest lands will be given due attention;

_ incentives - free seedlings with good timber characteristics to restock their forests and tax rebate.

7. Capacity building

_ shortage of professional technical staff and labour force;

_ lack of trained staff & equipment;

_ since 1997, 60 Officers completed a certificate course in Forestry. 60 more will complete the course by 2001;

_ some 20 Officers followed short courses abroad under SADC sponsorship;

_ greenhouse and Tree Seed Centre built;

_ urgent need to train Officers in specific fields like biodiversity, tissue culture, tree seed centre management, etc.;

_ new equipment and facilities required for more efficiency and productivity;

_ the trend is to empower the Government Forestry Institutions to meet the challenges of this new century.

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