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Mauritius

Region: 
Did you know: 

The 18th triennial Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers was held in Port Louis during 28–31 August 2012 and was attended by delegations from 39 countries.

Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio, a Frenchman whose parents originated from Mauritius, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2008.

Mauritius has one of the highest life expectancies in Africa (74 years).

Key facts

Joined Commonwealth: 
1968
Population: 
1,244,000 (2013)
GDP: 
3.5% p.a. 1990–2013
UN HDI: 
world ranking 63
Official language: 
English
Timezone: 
GMT plus 4hr
Currency: 
Mauritian rupee (MRs)

Geography

Area: 
Island of Mauritius 1,864 sq km; Rodrigues 104 sq km; total area, including other islands 2,040 sq km.
Coastline: 
177km
Capital city: 
Port Louis
Population density (per sq. km): 
610

The Republic of Mauritius, an island country in the Indian Ocean, lies east of Madagascar and the south-east African coast. Its nearest neighbour is the French island of Réunion. The Constitution of Mauritius provides that Mauritius includes the islands of Mauritius, Rodrigues, Agalega, Tromelin, Cargados Carajos and the Chagos Archipelago, including Diego Garcia and any other island comprised in the State of Mauritius. Mauritius has always maintained that it has sovereignty over the Chagos Archipelago but has not been able so far to exercise its sovereignty.

Main towns: 

Port Louis (capital, pop. 151,033 in 2013), Vacoas-Phoenix (106,493), Beau Bassin-Rose Hill (104,973), Curepipe (79,273), Quatre Bornes (77,534), Triolet (23,780), Goodlands (20,990), Bel Air (17,935), St Pierre (16,193), Central Flacq (16,085), Mahébourg (15,431), Le Hochet (15,289) and Grand Baie (12,079).

Transport: 

There are 2,150 km of roads, 98 per cent paved, including at least 30 km of motorways and 940 km of main roads. There is no railway.

Port Louis is the main harbour and only commercial port. Facilities include a container terminal and terminals for the bulk handling of sugar, oil, wheat and cement.

Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport at Plaisance is in the south-east of the island, some 50 km from Port Louis. There is an airstrip at Plaine Corail on Rodrigues receiving a daily service from Mauritius.

International relations: 

Mauritius is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, African Union, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, Indian Ocean Rim Association, Non-Aligned Movement, Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, Southern African Development Community, United Nations and World Trade Organization.

Mauritius hosts the headquarters of the Indian Ocean Rim Association.

Topography: 

The island of Mauritius is almost entirely surrounded by coral reefs, with lagoons and coral-sand beaches. Mountains, with rocky peaks, rise abruptly from the broad fertile plains; within lies the central plateau. The rivers flow fast through deep ravines, with frequent waterfalls. They are not navigable, but fill eight reservoirs. The longest is the 34 km Grand River South-East. There are two natural lakes, Grand Bassin and Bassin Blanc, both craters of extinct volcanoes.

Climate: 

The climate is maritime subtropical, with south-east trade winds blowing for much of the year. Summer, the rainy season, is from November to April, winter from June to September. Rainfall ranges from 80 mm in October to 310 mm in February. Heavy rains fall mainly from late December to the beginning of April. Cyclones, occurring in the summer, occasionally cause severe damage.

Environment: 

The most significant issues are water pollution, and degradation of coral reefs.

Vegetation: 

The mountain foothills are densely vegetated, many planted with sugar cane and tea. Some 4,600 hectares of forest land have been set aside as nature reserves. Remains of the original ebony forests, felled by the early settlers, have survived here. The uplands have been extensively replanted with conifers and eucalyptus. Trees include coastal casuarina trees (called filaos), the Indian almond tree (badamier), ficus (multipliant), flametree (flamboyant), African tulip, bauhinia and jacaranda. Mangroves grow along the east and south-east coasts. Many indigenous trees and tree orchids have vanished, but over 10,000 plant species remain, of which more than 150 are indigenous to Mauritius and 40 to Rodrigues. Forest covers 17 per cent of the land area, having declined at 0.5 per cent p.a. 1990–2010.

Arable land comprises 38 per cent and permanent cropland two per cent of the total land area.

Wildlife: 

Mauritius was the home of the dodo, an extinct species of flightless large turkey. Conservation systems are now well enforced, but only nine of a known 25 species of indigenous birds remain, including the Mauritius kestrel and the pink pigeon. The Rodrigues fruit bat or golden bat was in danger of becoming extinct until recently; the Mauritius fruit bat is more common. Javanese deer, introduced by the Dutch for food, are found mainly in the uplands and the ravines, and protected by hunting restrictions. There are 12 species of lizards, four of non-poisonous snakes and 2,000 of insects and butterflies. Three of the butterflies – the citrus, ficus and sailor – are unique to the islands. Marine fauna is very rich.

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