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RODRIGUEZ (officially RODRIGUES)

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Originally appearing in Volume V23, Page 449 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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RODRIGUEZ (officially RODRIGUES), an island in the Indian Ocean in 19° 41' S., 63° 23' E.; the most important dependency of the British colony of Mauritius, from which it is distant 344 nautical miles. It is a station on the " all-British " cable route between South Africa and Australia, telegraphic communication with Mauritius being established in 1902. With a length of 13 M. E. and W., and a breadth of 3 to 6 m. N. and S., it has an area estimated at 422 sq. m. On all sides it is surrounded by a fringing reef of coral, studded with islets. This reef, only Too yds. wide at the eastern end of the island, extends westward 3 m., and both N. and S. forms a flat area partly dry at low water. Two passages through the reef are available for large vessels—these leading respectively to Port Mathurin on the N. coast and to Port South-East. The island was at one period believed to consist of granite over-laid with limestone and other modern formations, and its supposed formation caused it to be regarded as a remnant of the hypothetical continent of Lemuria. The investigations made by an expedition sent by the British government in 1874 showed, however, that the island is a mass of volcanic rock, mainly a doleritic lava, rich in olivine. The land consists largely of a series of hills. The main ridge, which runs parallel to the longest diameter, rises abruptly on the east, more gradually on the west, where there is a wide plain of coralline limestone, studded with caves, some stalactitic. Of several peaks on the main ridge the highest is Mt. Limon, 1300 ft. above the sea. The ridge is deeply cut by ravines, the upper parts of which show successive belts of lava separated by thin beds of cinders, agglomerate and coloured clays. In places the cliffs rise 300 ft. and exhibit twelve distinct lava flows. The climate is like that of Mauritius, but Rodriguez is more subject than Mauritius to hurricanes during the north-west monsoon (November to April). Flora and Fauna.—When discovered, and down into the 17th century, Rodriguez was clothed with fine timber trees; but goats, cattle and bush-fires have combined to destroy the great bulk of the old vegetation, and the indigenous plants have in many cases been ousted by intrusive foreigners. Parts are, however, still well wooded, and elsewhere there is excellent pasturage. The' sweet potato, manioc, maize, millet, the sugar-cane, cotton, coffee and rice grow well. Tobacco is also cultivated. Wheat is seldom seen, mainly because of the parakeets and the Java sparrows. Beans (Phaseolus lunatus), lentils, gram (Cicer arietinum), dholl (Cajanus indicus) and ground-nuts are all grown to a certain extent in spite of ravages by rats. Mangoes, bananas, guavas, pine-apples, custard-apples, and especially oranges, citrons and limes flourish. Of the timber trees the most common are Elaeodendron orientate, much used in carpentry and for pirouges, and Latania Verschaffelti (Leguat's plantane). At least two species of screw-pine (Pandanus heterocarpus, Balf. fit., and P. tenuifolius) occur freely throughout the island. The total number of known species, according to Professor I. B. Balfour, is 470, belonging to 85 families and 293 genera. The families represented by the greatest number of species are Gramineae, Leguminosae, Convolvulaceae, Malvaceae, Rubiaceae, Cyperaceae, Euphorbiaceae, Liliaceae, Compositae. Mathurina penduliflora (Turneraceae) is interesting, as its nearest congener is in Central America. Of 33 species of mosses 17 are peculiar. Variability of species and heterophylly are characteristic of the flora to quite an unusual degree. At present the only indigenous mammal is a species of fruit-eating bat (Pteropus rodericensis), and the introduced species are familiar creatures as deer, pig, rabbit, rat, mouse, &c.; but down to a recent period the island was the home of a very large land-tortoise (Testudo Vosmaeri or rodericensis), and its limestone caves have yielded a large number of skeletons of the dodo-like solitaire (Pezophaps salitarius), which still built its mound-like nest in the island in the close of the 17th century, but is now extinct (see Donis). Deer, once plentiful, had become very scarce by the beginning of the 20th century, having been indiscriminately hunted by the inhabitants. Of indigenous birds 13 species have been registered. The guinea-fowl (introduced) has become exceedingly abundant, partly owing to a protective game-law; and a francolin (F. ponticerianus), popularly a " partridge," is also common. The
End of Article: RODRIGUEZ (officially RODRIGUES)
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