Following the oil spill in Mauritius, there is concern about biodiversity

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Two months after the sinking of a Japanese ship in Mauritius, the first overview of the consequences of the oil spill on biodiversity. It will take several months to assess the impact of the 1,000 tonnes of fuel spilled on the coral reef. Also on land, oil spills can have consequences, especially for two bird species that are already in danger.

The water in the lagoon is petrol blue. Two months after the oil spill that hit Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, “we sometimes find oil products on the surface,” said Vikash Tatayah, director of conservation at the Mauritius Wildlife Foundation, an NGO working to protect biodiversity in Mauritius. Vikash Tatayah, who became a member of the Île aux Aigrettes, one of the places most affected by the sinking of the Japanese ship Wakashio, also describes fuel that “has been trapped in the sand”. The legendary white sand from Mauritius beaches is sometimes gray, the turquoise blue water sometimes iridescent.

I cried, it hurts in my heart

When, on July 25, more than 1,000 tons of fuel began to flow out into the sea and along the coasts, the traumatized population mobilized to save its legacy in a country where tourism and fishing are the most important. resources. “The first day I arrived, I was crying,” said a Mauritian woman greeted at the time by RFI correspondent Abdoulaye Earally. I will not lie to you, it hurts in your heart. So we’re here to try to do what we can. ”

Roll up your sleeves, clean the beaches, dry up killer oil. But beware, warns Vikash Tatayah, “intensive cleaning can make the surface sterile and prevent recolonization of algae and molluscs”. Good news, sometimes nature can make itself beautiful. “There are microbes in nature that will digest the oil product with waves and winds. But it can sometimes take months, years … ”

Endangered endemic species

It will take time, and it will take time to make a full assessment of the disaster. In the disaster area, fishing is currently prohibited. The coral, an animal, has bleached in some places without being able to feed in the absence of zooplankton. Fuel has polluted the sea and disturbed it. The turbidity of the water prevents light from passing through. The entire marine ecosystem is in turmoil.

Also on land, the oil spill has consequences. To the mangrove and its vegetation that pushes the feet into the water. And so also for insects, bats and birds, as Vikash Tatayah explains. “Some of our birds, especially the spectacled bird and the Mauritius cardinal, feed on insects, but also on nectar from flowers. If the food chain is affected, we believe it will disturb our birds and that reproduction may be affected. “The Spectacled Bird and Mauritius Cardinal are two endemic species that are already endangered – only a few hundred pairs remain. If they disappear from Mauritius, they disappear from the planet.

Question of the week

“I cry every time I cut an onion. Am I a sensitive boy? “

Maybe … But in fact, we’re all equal when it comes to the death of an onion. We all react the same way: in tears. But it is not our heart that speaks, it is a chemical reaction. The barrel, when attacked, releases an enzyme to create tear gas in contact with its sulfated components. Useful to ward off predators.

Japanese researchers are trying to develop a guaranteed tear-free bulb by neutralizing the responsible gene. However, since the plant only produces seeds every two years, it takes time to develop. In the meantime, every time you are asked why you are crying, you will answer: this is not your business!

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