The Rivulet Terre Rouge Estuary Bird Sanctuary

The Rivulet Terre Rouge Estuary Bird Sanctuary is found in the north west of the island at Mer Rouge near the village of Roche Bois.

It is unique on the island in the sense that it temporarily houses migratory birds that flee away from harsh winters from as far off as Siberia to enjoy the warmer temperatures of the island.

The sanctuary is a coastal area that is protected by the Mauritian authorities as well as under the international Ramsar convention (as of 2001) that protects wetlands worldwide. In 1997, the wetland was declared a reserve under the Wildlife and National Parks Act 1993.

Covering an area of 26 hectares, the site is visited every year by about 1200 birds with 13 regular migrant birds and 6 rare migrants. The estuary is highly protected and as such regular monitoring works are undertaken to ensure that human activity in the surroundings does not affect the reserve.

In this respect, no industry is allowed to discharge effluents in the surrounding waters; a dumping site near the estuary has been converted into a waste compacting site and a site for animal quarantine near the estuary has been relocated elsewhere. Common birds found at the estuary are the Curlew Sandpiper (North USSR), the Grey Plover (Toundra Eur.), the Common Sandpiper (Europe), the Whimbrel (Toundra Eur.), the Ruddy Turnstone (Eur. Arctic), the Little Green Heron, the common Tern (Europe), the Lesser Crested Tern (Mer Rouge), the Greater Sand Plover (Eurasie S.), the Ringed Plover (Reg. Palaearct), the Little Ringed Plover (Europe), the Bar Tailed Godwit (Alaska), the Terek Sandpiper (URSS), the Green Shank (Reg. Palaearct), the Sanderling (Haut Palaearct) and the Little Stint (West Palaearct).

In 2004, a visitors’ centre was built at the site to be able to observe the birds at a closer distance and thus promote ecotourism with regards to the reserve. The office provides information on the birds in the sanctuary and allows viewing through a telescope. The reserve is opened to the public throughout the week and during the migration period from October to April, it is also opened during the weekends. Funded by the GEF small grant programmes, there is an awareness programme going on for the villagers of Roche Bois to better understand the ecosystem as well as the training of 8 guides for tour visits of the wetland. The benefit of the project is that it also creates employment for the villagers in the form of souvenir sales etc. Hunting is strictly prohibited in the area though waterfowls are not usually considered as game. Research at the site has been done mainly by university students regarding water quality, the presence of metals in the sediment, feeding habits of the birds and the presence of the E.coli bacteria. Awareness programmes regarding the estuary include a short film on the sanctuary, free transport to school children to the reserve and distribution of pamphlets about the RTREBS on the world wetland day.