The island of Mauritius hosts some the world's most amazing, and threatened, animals and plants.
Yet due to the pionering work of conservationists, including the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation and its partners, many have been saved at the eleventh hour.
In a stunning series of photographs, and her own words, conservation photographer Gabby Salazar describes and documents these efforts, which have helped bring numerous species back from the brink of extinction.
A statue of a dodo bird on Ile aux Aigrettes, Mauritius, reminds visitors of all that has been lost. The dodo, a large flightless bird that was endemic to Mauritius has been extinct for over 300 years.
An Ornate Day-gecko, Phelsuma ornata, hides in an endangered vacoas plant, Pandanus vandermeeschii. This small, colourful gecko is only found on the island of Mauritius. While Mauritians call most geckos “lézard vert”, there are at least five distinct endemic taxa on the island, all of which have different patterns and colour combinations.
A researcher holds a Mauritius Fruit Bat after capturing it for a study. This bat will be tagged with a GPS collar so that scientists can track its movements and better understand where it goes and what it eats. Bats are the only mammals that are native to Mauritius – rats, cats, monkeys, deer, pigs, mongooses and other mammals have been introduced to the island. The management of introduced mammal species is an ongoing challenge in conservation as they often eat or compete with native and endemic species.
This large species of skink is only found on offshore islands around Mauritius. In the 1980s, there were only around 5,000 individuals left and the entire population was restricted to Round Island, a small island off the north coast of Mauritius. Now, thanks to recovery efforts on Round Island and re-introduction to other offshore islets, the population has rebounded to 50,000 individuals.
These beautiful seeds are from the latanier bleu, an endangered palm that is endemic to Mauritius. Each seed has a unique design. Conservationists collect the seeds of endangered plants so that they can cultivate them in nurseries and plant them back in the wild. Growing plants in nursery helps protect them from extinction.
This terrestrial crab can be seen on mainland Mauritius and Rodrigues, and on several offshore islets e.g. here on Ile aux Aigrettes. While much effort has been devoted to terrestrial mammals, birds, reptiles, and plants, marine biodiversity is also a very high priority. Everything is connected and it is just as important to protect the sea as well as the land.
An Aldabra Tortoise, native to the Seychelles, is weighed on a scale by researchers to monitor its growth. The Aldabra tortoise was brought to Mauritius in the late 19th century as part of an effort led by Charles Darwin and his friends to help save the species from extinction. The tortoises have been introduced to Round Island in the hope that they will fill the ecological role played by Mauritius’ extinct endemic tortoise species.
This hibiscus species is native to Indian Ocean islands. It is seen here on Ile aux Aigrettes, a small island off the southeast coast of Mauritius that is managed by the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation. The island has been revegetated with native plants.
This species of gecko is endemic to Round Island, which is a small island nature reserve off the northern coast of Mauritius. The gecko is named after Gerald Durrell, a famous conservationist who started working in Mauritius in the late 1970s. This species has not been assessed by the IUCN, but is expected to be critically endangered due to its limited range.
A radiated tortoise, Astrochelys radiata, hunkers down for the night under a rocky cliff. Radiated tortoises, originally from Madagascar, have been introduced to Round Island to fill the ecological role of the extinct Mauritian tortoises that used to graze on the island. Round Island also serves as a reservoir for the endangered species in case it is driven to extinction in its native Madagascar.
This is an echo parakeet, Psittacula eques, found in Black River Gorges National Park, Mauritius. This species was down to just 10 individuals in the wild a few decades ago. Now, thanks to captive breeding and monitoring efforts, there are over 500 mature individuals in the wild.
Probably the rarest bird of Mauritius, the population of the Mauritius olive white-eye, Zosterops chloronothos, is currently estimated at about 300 birds. The olive white-eye feeds on nectar, small fruits and insects.
This is one of the many botanists who work in the Endemic Plant Nursery run by National Parks and Conservation Service in Mauritius. Here he holds one of the island’s many critically endangered plants that have been successfully propagated by park staff. These plants are used to restore native forest on mainland Mauritius and on outer islets.
A common noddy, Anous stolidus, feeds its chick on Ile aux Coco, a small nature reserve on an islet off the coast of Rodrigues Island, a part of the Republic of Mauritius. Noddys and many other seabirds breed on the offshore islets around Mauritius and Rodrigues.
Gabby Salazar, a conservation photographer from North Carolina, US is a US Fulbright Scholar in Photography, a National Geographic Young Explorer, and a member of the Emerging League of the International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP).
In 2004 she was named BBC Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year. In 2014, Gabby became the youngest ever President of the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA). Her work has been displayed at the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian and at the International Photography Hall of Fame.
You can follow her work on Instagram