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Each member state has identified a national focal point for FOSA. Mauritius has nominated the Conservator of forests, Mr. S.A. Paupiah, to lead the study. A team consisting of representatives of major stakeholders of the Forestry Sector, representatives of Ministries and other government organisations, NGO's and the private sector was constituted. The choice of representatives was guided by their direct or indirect interest and involvement in the sector.

The Republic of Mauritius comprising of the islands of Mauritius, Rodrigues, St. Brandon and other offshore islets have a total land area of 2,000 sq. km. Mauritius is located at latitude 20oS and longitude 58oE . The population in 1999 was 1.2 million (approx).


Brief description of Forests and the Forestry Sector

Mauritius was not inhabited until the mid 17th century. Since then, it has been colonised successively by the Dutch, French and British. During those three centuries of colonisation, there has been indiscriminate deforestation for agriculture, timber exploitation, sugar cane plantation, human settlement and other infrastructures. The native forests which originally covered most of the island have almost completely disappeared except for a few inaccessible areas, which have been spared the onslaught of deforestation. These areas have now been converted to National Park, Nature Reserves or other protected areas. The degraded upland native forests have since been re-afforested with fast growing exotics that form the bulk of the forest plantations. The upland plantations produce limited timber but they play a vital role in soil and water conservation. This is of great significance as most of our sugar cane plantations are situated at mid and low elevations.


The National Forest Estate

The total area of forest lands is estimated at 57,059 hectares of which only 22,519 hectares is state-owned and the rest is privately owned. Annex I gives a breakdown of forest areas in Mauritius. There are thus more forests under private ownership but the growing stock is more in the state-owned forest plantations than in the privately -owned forests. The private forests owners are not keen to invest in forest plantations as the return on instalments take a long time and the capital is exposed to a lot of risks (cyclones, fire, theft, pests etc.). Land being scarce, many private forests have been cleared for land- parcelling for residential purposes.

Forest Functions

Protective and environmental

By virtue of their strategic location, the upland forests play a vital role in soil and water conservation. They help regulate runoff and prevent floods. The native forests of Mauritius are the habitat of a host of endemic fauna and there is a very high level of endemism in our flora as well. The conservation of biological diversity is one of our highest priority as a lot of our plants and animals are on the verge of extinction.

Coastal forests act as buffers against strong winds and cyclones, which are frequent in Mauritius. In addition, the mangrove forest serves as nursery grounds for numerous fish and shellfish, including shrimps.



Due to land shortage, wood production is quite limited. Mauritius is a net importer of timber. We import most of our hardwood requirements and produce 30% of our demand for utility timber. There has been a drastic fall in the use of fuel wood over the past 15 years following the government’s decision to de-tax cooking gas. Following tables give a breakdown of the major species and annual production of wood.


Area (hectares)


Pinus elliottii



Cryptomeria japonica &

Araucaria cunninghamii



Eucalyptus and Casuarina



Other hardwoods






Local Productions in 1999

State Forest Lands

Volume m3





Fuel wood



(ii) Non-wood products

The non-wood products of the forests in Mauritius consists mainly of venison, feral monkeys, fruits, fibres and medicinal plants.


It is estimated that two third of the tourists coming to Mauritius spend at least half a day driving through or visiting our forests. The estimated revenue from ecotourism is about

US$ 5,000,000. The ecotourism potential of these forests is already being exploited by the private sector through guided safari tours, hunting parties, lodging and boarding etc.


The activities of the private sector is profit-driven and their interests in the forests are quite varied. The protection and maintenance of existing forest reserves and the creation of new ones are primarily carried out by the State. In the wood sector, investment by the private sector is limited to exploitation of the state forest resources in terms of logging, extraction and saw-milling.

In the non-wood sector, the private sector’s investment is mainly on deer ranching (both in leased State Forests and Private Forests) and wildlife exports - mainly the export of live feral and captive bred monkeys. In the Services Sector, activities in ecotourism and other nature-based tourism has been gradually expanding. There are a few ambitious projects that have been identified with private investment in state-owned lands. This sector has the strategic advantage of benefiting from the 650,000 tourists who visit Mauritius annually. They come here for the sun and the sea. The average stay of a tourist in Mauritius is about ten days. During their stay, they look for other nature-based activities and the ecotourism sector caters for their demand.


Role of the Forestry Sector in the National Economy

Apart from their protective and environmental functions, the forests of Mauritius provide direct and indirect employment to about 5,000 people in the various forestry sub-sectors e.g. creation and maintenance of forest resources, logging, saw-milling, deer ranching, wildlife export, secondary wood processing etc. The contribution of the forestry sector towards 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.


National Forest Policy and Forest Legislation

The approved National Forest Policy was formulated in the early sixties and was re-enunciated in 1982. We are working on a new forest policy as the existing one does not adequately address some of the issues which have emerged during the last decade, e.g. eco-tourism, conflicts between deer ranching and forest management, conservation of bio-diversity etc. A copy of the National Forest Policy is given in Annex II

The following are the main legislation for the protection of forests and conservation of Bio-Diversity:

Forests and Reserves Act No. 41 of 1983

National Parks and Wildlife Act No. 13 of 1993

The Environmental Act 34 of 1991

The Fisheries Act No. RL/2/771 of 1990.


Forestry Institutions

The two major organisations, which have custody of the State Forest Lands, are the Forestry Service and the National Parks and Conservation Service. Their activities are funded mainly from the National Budget, with the exception of a few projects that benefit from external funding. The main roles of these organisations are the protection of the strategically located upland forests for soil and water conservation and the protection of the rare native flora and fauna. Both operate under the aegis of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Technology and Natural Resources. The Minister has specific power under the Forests and Reserves Act. No. 41 of 1983 to make regulations.

The Nature Reserves Board and the Wildlife and National Parks Board provide advice to the Minister on matters relating to Nature Reserves, Wildlife, National Parks and Conservation Service.

NGOs like Mauritius Wildlife Foundation, Friends of the Environment, BEI, etc., are actively involved in forestry and conservation works.


Land-use Conflicts

The Forestry Sector is the most vulnerable land-based sector in Mauritius. During the past three centuries, there has been considerable expansion of agriculture and other infrastructural developments over forest lands. The threat to Forest lands by other land users is still persisting.

Marginal forest lands under private ownership are being cleared for pastures for cattle and deer ranching. Very often these areas are over-grazed and exposed to erosion. State Forests Lands are the first to be sacrificed for new infrastructural developments e.g. road expansion, dams, industrial parks, sports complexes, built-up areas etc.




Forestry Institutions are not properly staffed and equipped to cope with the new challenges facing natural resources management. There is a lack of specialised personnel and a shortage of staff and labour force. The situation is worsened by adverse climatic conditions like cyclone, drought, etc which often hit the island.

Though the Government is committed to the cause of Conservation of Biological Diversity, there is limited capital investment in the Government Institutions that are responsible for the management of Forest Resources. A marginal increase in capital investment would go a long way in the more effective utilisation of the human resources and the improvement of productivity.



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