Mauritius 50

Yesterday, on March 12, people in the Indian Ocean island nation of Mauritius celebrated National Day on the country’s “Golden Jubilee”—its 50th anniversary of independence. March 12 also marks the day Mauritius became a republic in 1992 (it was previously a constitutional monarchy). Mauritius lies about 500 miles (800 kilometers) east of Madagascar and about 2,450 miles (3,943 kilometers) southwest of India. The Dutch claimed an uninhabited Mauritius in 1598. Later, France and then the United Kingdom ruled the island. Mauritius gained independence from the United Kingdom on March 12, 1968. It remains a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. Port Louis is the capital and leading port.

The people of Mauritius, called Mauritians, are descendants of European settlers, African slaves, Chinese traders, and Asian Indian laborers and traders. About two-thirds of the people are Indians. About a fourth are people of European and African or European and Indian ancestry called Creoles. The rest are Chinese or Europeans. Most Europeans are of French descent.

Mauritius is a beautiful island with a delightfully sunny climate. Temperature averages range from 79 °F (26 °C) in summer to 72 °F (22 °C) during winter. Hundreds of thousands of tourists visit Mauritius each year. Many fine hotels line the island’s lovely beaches.

Previous to its fame as a tourist destination, Mauritius was perhaps best known for one of its native inhabitants, the dodo (which unfortunately is extinct). The dodo, about the size of a large turkey, was a flightless bird resembling a giant pigeon. The dodo lived only on Mauritius. European sailors killed the birds for food. Pigs and monkeys brought to the island during the 1500's destroyed the eggs and ate the young. Many scholars believe the dodo died out about 1680.

For philatelists (stamp collectors), the island is well known for two extremely rare stamps issued in 1847. The Mauritius “post office” stamps include a blue two-penny stamp and a red one-penny stamp. They both feature a profile of Queen Victoria and contain the words post office in the frame. In Mauritian stamps issued in 1848 and later, post office was replaced by post paid. Authenticated 1847 “post office” stamps can sell for more than 1 million dollars at auction.

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Image 1: Mauritius flag. Credit: © Shutterstock

Image 2: Mauritius. Credit: WORLD BOOK map

Image 3: The dodo was a bird that had tiny wings that were so small it could not fly. Dodos lived only on the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. They have been extinct since about 1680. Credit: World Book illustration by Trevor Boyer, Linden Artists Ltd.

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