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Rodrigues (Rodriguan Creole: Zil Rodrigues, from "les îsles Rodrigues", French for "Rodrigues Islands"), sometimes spelled Rodriguez but named after the Portuguese explorer Diogo Rodrigues, is the smallest of the Mascarene Islandsmarker and a dependency of Mauritiusmarker. With a peak elevation of approximately 355 meters, it is located 560 km east of Mauritius island, in the middle of the Indian Oceanmarker. It is 109 km² in size, and surrounded by a coral reef. The capital of the island is Port Mathurinmarker.

As of 2006, the island's population was about 40,000. The main language is Rodriguan Creole, while French and English are spoken or understood by some of the inhabitants. The main religion is Roman Catholicism with a small minorities of other religions. Most of the inhabitants are of mixed African and Frenchmarker descent. The main industries are handicraft, farming, fishing and tourism.


Rodrigues has 14 municipalities or zones:

Zone Nr. Municipality PopulationCensus
of 2000
Zone 5 Port Mathurinmarker 5929
Zone 8 Lataniers-Mont Lubin 3806
Zone 9 Petit Gabriel 3658
Zone 12 Rivière Cocos 2893
Zone 10 Mangues-Quatre Vents 2870
Zone 11 Plaine Corail-La Fouche Corail 2832
Zone 13 Port Sud-Est 2717
Zone 4 Oyster Bay 2594
Zone 7 Roche Bon Dieu-Trèfles 2059
Zone 14 Coromandel-Graviers 1944
Zone 1 Piments-Baie Topaze 1445
Zone 2 La Ferme 1112
Zone 3 Baie Malgache 1076
Zone 6 Grand Baie-Montagne Goyaves 844
  Rodrigues 35779

For statistical purposes, the zones are further subdivided into a total of 182 localities. The zones have between a minimum of six localities (La Ferme) and 22 (the capital Port Mathurinmarker).


From the 10th century, Arabs have been known to visit the Mascarene Islandsmarker. A 12th century map by the Arab geographer Ash-Sharif al-Idrisi supposedly contains them, and the Cantino planisphere of c.1500 and some other contemporary maps clearly show the three islands of the Mascarenes as Dina Arobi (or Harobi), Dina Margabin and Dina Moraze. These are apparently corrupted transliterations or transcriptions of the Arabic Diva Harab ("Desert Island"), Diva Maghrebin ("Western Island") and Diva Mashriq ("Eastern Island"). While the second clearly refers to Réunionmarker, sources disagree about which of the other is Mauritiusmarker and which one Rodrigues, which are both to the east of Réunion and arranged in a somewhat stylized way on these maps. However, even in its original state, Rodrigues had some karst, while Mauritius even after suffering 500 years of deforestation can by no means be called "desert" even in a colloquial sense.

The island was located again in February 1507. Part of the fleet of Afonso de Albuquerque and Tristão da Cunha, Diogo Fernandes Pereira's Cirne spotted Réunion on February 9 after a cyclone diverted their course. The other two islands were subsequently rediscovered. The initial name was Diogo Fernandes; Domingo Froiz was given as a name some years later, and by 1528 it had been again renamed after the Portuguesemarker navigator Dom Diogo Rodrigues and has remained so since. The orthography has been less stable at first, with the name being transcribed Diego Rodriguez, Diego Ruys (or even "Diego Ruy's Island"), Dygarroys or Bygarroys. Some early French sources called it Île Marianne.

Due to the island lying far off the beaten track of seafarers at that time, it received few visits. From 1601, the Dutchmarker began visiting the island somewhat more regularly for fresh supplies of food. In 1691 the Huguenot, François Leguat and 7 companions landed on the island, intending to set up a farming colony of Protestant refugees. Farming was not successful, but there was an abundance of tortoises, turtles, birds, fish and other seafood.

During the 18th century several attempts were made by the Frenchmarker to develop the island. African slaves (ancestors of the present population) were brought to Rodrigues to develop stockbreeding and farming.

In 1809, after a brief battle with the French, Britishmarker troops took possession of Rodrigues. And with British occupation, slavery was abolished.

In 1883, the eruption of the Indonesianmarker volcano Krakatoamarker was heard at Mauritius, described as "the roar of heavy guns". Naval gunmen were quickly ordered to their posts. Having been heard from approximately 3000 miles (5000 km.) away on the other side of the Indian Ocean, the noise was the loudest sound in recorded history.

In 1968, Rodrigues was joined with Mauritius when it attained independence; today it is an autonomous region of Mauritius.

In 2002, the island was made the seat of the Roman Catholic Vicariate Apostolic of Rodrigues.

Image:Rodrigues EasternSlopesOfGrandeMontagne.jpg|Northeastern slope of Rodrigues island, from the summit of Grande Montagne to Pointe CotonImage:Rodrigues PortMathurin.jpg|The capital of Rodrigues, Port-MathurinmarkerImage:Rodrigues SaintGabrielCathedral 02.jpg|Saint-Gabriel cathedral, Port-MathurinFile:Rodrigues GrandeMontagneIndigenousAfforestation.jpg|Regenerating native forest on Grande MontagneFile:Rodrigues CavernePatatesEntrance.jpg|Entrance to the speleotherm-rich Caverne PatatesImage:Rodrigues West.jpg|The almost uninhabited western part of Rodrigues island

Natural history

Rodrigues is a volcanic island rising from a ridge along the edge of the Mascarene Plateau. The tectonically-active Rodrigues Triple Point lies on the seafloor nearby. Estimated to be from 1-4 million years old, over time Rodrigues has developed a unique environment, including many endemic species.

The coral reef of Rodrigues is of particular interest as it is self-seeding – it receives no coral zooplankton from elsewhere. This has led to an overall species-poor but highly adapted ecosystem. A species of coral, two species of Pomacentrus damselfish and many new species of crustaceans are only found on Rodrigues' reefs.

Extinctions and conservation

Some endemic land animals are now extinct, following an onslaught of introduced species (particular Black Rats, Rattus rattus), habitat destruction and overhunting during the 18th-19th centuries. Due to the early visits being few and far between, the extinctions on this small island can be dated with reasonable certainty:

Before 1691: c.1730-1760 c.1800: c.1845 c.1875

The Rodrigues Fruit Bat (Pteropus rodricensis) and two species of endemic birds, the Rodrigues Fody (Foudia flavicans) and the Rodrigues Warbler (Acrocephalus rodericana), survive. The latter, together with a Rodrigues Solitaire, is on the coat of arms of the island.

As regards land plants, the coffee relative Ramosmania rodriguesii (café marron) was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered in 1979.

See also

Notes and references

External links

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