James and the Giant Tortoise (caption of the century)
We spent our last afternoon in Mauritius at Casela Nature & Leisure Park. I have very conflicting feelings about animals being kept in captivity. Whilst breeding programmes and the opportunity to study endangered species can be good, captivity is stressful for the animals and can cause all kinds of medical problems: particularly animals originally from hotter or colder environments. However, how can zoos afford to run conservation programmes without funding from ticket sales? Additionally some zoos provide shelter for rehabilitated animals who have left horrific lives performing in shows and have no chance of readjusting to the wild.
Though very few of the animals we saw at Casela are indigenous to Mauritius, the climate and habitat are identical to their home environment and they have a lot of space where natural activities (digging, burrowing etc) are encouraged unlike in some zoos. On safari (pictures below) we saw so many animals including a baby ostrich. The first tortoise we met had hijacked the food laid out for the ostriches; you can see them watching him confusedly but he seemed pretty happy! Bonus animals were the incredibly shy black pigs; they’re very endangered due to wild boar consumption.
In the nature park (pictures above) there were many species of bird wandering around free of cages. James and I shared a tender moment with the beautiful giant tortoises who are now endangered; when I first visited Mauritius at the age of 18 months these animals were still native and we have numerous photos of me playing with them, so it was bittersweet to see them. We also saw a tiny baby macaque (about the size of my hand) being cuddled and passed around the elders and the adorable lovebirds huddled together. My favourite new friend was this lemur. I scratched her back through the railings and she immediately turned round and spread herself out to be stroked, just like a cat.