The Other Mauritius – The Pink Pigeon

From the gorges view point the whole vast bowl of the Black River Gorges opened up to us, including the narrow corridor where the river headed for the sea.  From here we could see almost the whole of our walk and there was a sense of pride in having completed this much.  I estimated we had already walked over ten miles, and in the heat and with all the climbing it was already a remarkable feat, and it was still only mid morning.  We had the final drop to go back to the car park and we searched around for the path down.

It was a terrible path.  It was buried in the guava so you rarely got any view out as you went down the mountainside.  The guava was so packed that there was no wind at all and we were sweating buckets all the way down.  It did not help that the rainfall was not evaporating on this sheltered path either, and a slimy mud made the steep decline treacherous.  I was constantly slipping, having to put out my hands to grab the spiny vegetation on either side.  Martin was struggling even more than me.

But when we got back close to  the car park the pathway opened up to another forest track.  In the valley the forest had been cut in to gently curving glades, I suppose originally  to help build the environment for hunting.  As we came down round a hairpin into one of these I was amazed to see two large birds chasing a third.  They were obviously pigeon in shape but they were larger than even the wood pigeons which waddle around my garden in the UK.  And most curious was they had a distinctly pink hue.  I was so pleased to see them; they were not strangers to me.  Many years before when I was a teenager, I had picked up several of my father’s  books during the summer holiday and read them.  He had developed a taste for Gerard Durrell, the well known naturalist who had established Jersey Zoo to look at protecting some of the most endangered but often unknown animals on earth.  Small island species in particular are vulnerable; you just have to look at the dodo.  Durrell had written the hugely popular “My Family and Other Animals” but I found some of his other books even more fascinating.  Some were as much popular science as comic tales; he made an engaging case for restricting the size of cages in zoos in Noah’s Ark; saying that many animals are agoraphobic and would prefer to be contained in a safe little range that they can control and manage effectively.  He also wrote of his expeditions in Africa and Asia.  One of these was titled “Golden Bats and Pink Pigeons” based on his missions to Mauritius.  It was a simple little book talking of capturing many of the endangered animals, encouraging them to breed and then releasing them back into their natural habitat and protecting them.  And here was the results of all that, plodding around on the grass were three pink pigeons right where they ought to be in Black River.

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