The uninhabited, volcanic Indian Ocean island of Mauritius was visited by Middle Eastern and Malay seafarers from the ninth century and documented by Portuguese mariners between 1507 and 1512. In 1598 the Dutch admiral, Wybrand van Warwyck, established a settlement and named the island after Prince Maurice of Nassau—the stadthouder, or military chief, of Holland and Zeeland. The colony proved a useful staging post as the Dutch developed trade links with India, Southern Africa and the East Indies, but it was abandoned in favour of the Cape Colony in 1710. By then the Dutch settlers had cleared tracts of forest, introduced new species and, as of 1662, had caused the extinction of the island’s iconic flightless bird, the dodo.
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