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Gunners Coin (Coin de Mire) Mauritius

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Located some 4.5km off the north coast of Mauritius, Gunners Coin is a small islet (some 76 hectares) that has been declared a nature reserve as per the Forests and Reserves Act, 1983. The islet has a high point on the west side at 162m and is otherwise flat; being of volcanic origin, beautiful rough cliffs can be seen where a number of endemic birds nest. The islet is surrounded by turquoise waters making it a good place for swimming and a rich marine life for snorkelling and diving. Some remains of a Catholic and a Hindu shrine can also be noted on the islet. The vegetation has been modified a lot from what it was in the past; this has been attributed mainly to the introduction of rats and hares that have depredated on the seeds of many native species thus preventing their regeneration. Today, the islet is covered mainly with bushes of grasses such as creeping ones, tangleheads and willows (which make access to the surroundings a bit difficult) and some tree species Abrus, Eugenia, Flacourtia, Santalum and Cordia. Two ecologically important palm species are also found on the islet namely the Pandanus and Latania species. Other plants of conservation values on the islet are Scaevola, Arguisa, Lomatophyllum, Dracaena and Cynanchum. The fauna of the islet consists of many endemic reptiles including Bojers skink, Boutons skink that reside mainly in the rocky areas; the Ornate day gecko and the lesser night gecko are distributed mainly in the bushes. A number of native birds can also be seen flying around the islet or nesting in the cracks of the cliffs such as the Wedged tail shearwater, the Red tailed tropic bird and the White tailed tropic bird. Common birds like sparrows, doves can be seen in the bushes. There are also 5 species of land snails on Gunners Quoin (with 3 being native to Mauritius) and 3 native butterfly species. In the past, rats, hares and deer were also found over there but because of the damage they were doing to the ecosystem, they have been removed. Because it is a nature reserve, human activities on the islet is quite restricted though poaching (which is illegal) is still suspected. Access is mainly in the form of ecotourism for diving and snorkelling purposes in the surrounding waters. There is not much data on the islet but a number of tortoises, snakes and skinks are believed to have gone extinct in the 18th century mainly due to the introduction of alien animals and plants. Today, conservation programmes are in full force on the islet to help protect the remnant vegetation left and prevent any more floral and faunal species from going extinct.

Simpson Published 04 Mar 2011