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AFC Flag Expedition #8:
Not the way of the Dodo - Endangered Species of Mauritius
Expedition Artist: Ria Winters
Purpose: To visit Mauritius to study, render and support conservation of it's endangered species with special focus on its birds.
Location: Mauritius
Scheduled For: May 2009
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Ria Winters is planning her visit to Mauritius to study, render and support conservation of itís endangered species with special focus on its birds. This is the eighth expedition fellowship under the AFC Flag Program.

The overall goal of this expedition is to create a portrait of Mauritius and it's wildlife, focusing on the geography of the island and the endemic species, with a primary focus on the Echo Parakeet but also highlighting the other endangered species.This project has also the aim to draw attention to the tragedy of extinction, the significance of the loss of species, and the fragility of ecosystems such as those found on Mauritius. Ria seeks to establish a legacy from this expedition that will raise funds directly for wildlife conservation in Mauritius. The primary beneficiary of these fundraising efforts will be the World Parrot Trust.

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EXPEDITION OBJECTIVES
The key objectives of the expeditions are to:
  • Complete field sketches and gather reference material of habitat and wildlife during expedition to Nature Reserves in Mauritius.
  • Complete a minimum of  20 original works featuring endangered species, creating a unique and permanent record of this exceptional habitat.
  • Produce sketches and photographs that have been made in the field
  • Produce watercolors and oil paintings that will be made in the studio after the journey.
  • Develop a major exhibition of resulting artwork for display in Dutch and other European venues.
  • Launch of a commemorative limited edition print and a series of prints and cards from the resulting artwork.
  • Raise funds for the Echo Parakeet by selling prints and originals. The funds will go to the World Parrot Trust. The cards and prints of Echo Parakeet paintings will be for sale on the WPT website and will also be sold at fairs where the WPT is present.
  • Develop a lecture that focuses on extinction and conservation of endemic species using Mauritius as an example. A series of lectures will be held throughout the Netherlands at various conservation groups. During these events prints and cards will be for sale; the funds will go to the WPT.
  • Publish a book about the expedition Mauritius and it's wildlife. The book would be available for tourism and would have an educational function.
  • To utilize the resulting body of artwork, research material, and publicity opportunities to further the mission of the AFC, support conservation initiatives and educate the public to the challenges facing the ecology and species of fragile habitats like Mauritius.

BACKGROUND
In natural history, the islands of the Republic of Mauritius are known for their endemic species and the tragic history of some of them. That makes Mauritius unique and provides a unique subject for a conservation awareness project.

The Dodo (Raphus cucullatus) was a  bird native only to the island of Mauritius. It was a flightless member of the pigeon family. Fully grown dodos weighed about 23 kg (50 pounds). When the Europeans arrived in Mauritius they discovered the Dodo as food. By 1681 it had been driven to extinction by humans and the feral dogs, pigs, rats, and monkeys that were introduced by the Europeans.

The Dodo was not the only Mauritian bird driven to extinction in recent centuries. Of the 45 bird species originally found, only 21 still survive. One bird species closely related to the Dodo became extinct in 1790: the Reunion Flightless Ibis (Raphus solitarius). Reports of sightings of living Dodos in the 1990s on Mauritius prompted William J. Gibbons to mount expeditions to search for them. None were found. On Rodrigues the Saddle-backed Rodrigues Giant Tortoise (Cylindraspis indica) also became extinct.

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