La Réunion #5: flora and fauna

As I have said a thousand times already, Réunion is a biotope extraordinaire. The different vegetations provide different habitats for plants and animals. Their individual adaptions stirred my hobby biologist’s heart, which is why I am dedicating them an extra post. (It’s the last one this time, big promise!) Not only do they have a great variety of plants but also some rare species. The “tamaride-forest” around the Col du Taibit for example only exists in La Réunion. Furthermore there are several species that came from Madagascar and are still rare obviously.
If you ever wondered why vanilla is sometimes called bourbon vanilla, I’m having the fitting anecdote right here. A long time ago the vanilla plant, which is a kind of orchid, has been brought to Réunion from Mexico. Due to a young slave boy, they began to manufacture the beans in quantity. The royal family Bourbon earned an embarras de richesse by the bourbon vanilla. This is why the island was called Bourbon before it got today’s name. But what they still have are the ancient manufactures that still use the slave boy’s invention. The production is highly elaborate. The plant itself is a creeper and has got to live in symbiosis with another tree. It can only be fertilized at one single day of the year. Plus the whole drying process takes two to three years. The vanilla plantation was probably the best smelling place I have ever been to, but after I heard about the production I have a complete new perspective on the little black beans.IMG_6147IMG_6122Apart from all our favourite tropical fruits such as mango and litchi, Réunion has some exclusive fruits and veggies to offer, for example the chou chous or some goyaviers which don’t bear a likeliness to the guavas I know. Most of the photos were taken at jardin d’Eden or random.IMG_6149IMG_6145IMG_6138IMG_6137IMG_6136IMG_6134IMG_6133IMG_6132IMG_6124

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The female and male chameleon.IMG_6135The island’s “heraldic animal” has always been the Dodo, but ever since it has been eradicated, you can only find it on their beer bottlers, which say: le Dodo lé la (Dodo is awesome). Instead this small birdie is their spirit animal today.IMG_6155Before there where humans in La Réunion, the island was settled by turtles. But ever since they set foot on the island turtles were haunted for their meat and shell until they were eradicated. In a place called Kélonia on the west coast, they used to hunt them till the 1990s. Today they have a breeding station to slowly bring back the turtles to Réunion.IMG_6150IMG_6157IMG_6158

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