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History of Mauritian Gastronomy

Mauritian food savour

One of the earliest sources of meat on the island was a previously unknown species of bird, the dodo. Dodos were descended from a type of pigeon which had settled in Mauritius over 4 million years ago. Weighing up to 50 pounds and with no natural predators to attack them, they lost their need and ability to fly and when the Portuguese began to use Mauritius as a stopover for ships engaged in the spice trade from 1505, the dodos proved to be a convenient source of fresh meat for the sailors. Unfortunately the dodo population was decimated and further reduced when the Dutch later brought rats, monkeys and pigs to the island which ate dodo eggs from ground nests. Less than 100 years following the arrival of humans on the island, the once abundant dodo became endangered and later extinct.

In 1639, the Dutch governor Adrian Van der Stel brought deer from their colony of Batavia (now, Indonesia), hoping that they would multiply and eventually become a food source for their young colony of Mauritius. They were released at the feet of Lion Mountain in Vieux Grand Port and from there spread all over the island, although they damaged the flora, they nevertheless did feed the local population.

When the Dutch decided to leave the island in 1709, they sent their dog packs after the deer in the hope of destroying the food source that could potentially benefit other visitors to the island. Some deer however, escaped to Port North Quest (Port Louis) and this is where the French settlers landing in 1715, found that they had congregated. The domestic pigs that were also introduced to Mauritius in a similar fashion by the Dutch eventually became wild and to this day are hunted, along with deer in forested reserve areas (domains) today.

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