Mauritius, or Isle of France, an island in the Indian Ocean, belonging to Great Britain since 1810, and situated 550 miles E. of Madagascar. It is of volcanic origin and elliptical in shape. A girdle of reefs, broken only by passages opposite the mouths of the small streams, renders it somewhat difficult of approach. The contour rises rapidly into a tableland, that shoots up into ridges; Riviere Noire (2711) is the culminating point of the island. Lavas, basalts, and volcanic lakes abound. Its picturesque beauty forms the appropriate background of Bernardin St Pierre's Paul and Virginia, and is well described in Besant and Rice's novel, My Little Girl. But during the 19th century the forests were cut down to make room for sugar-cane plantations ; and this has made the rainfall insufficient and uncertain. The extinct fauna embraced the interesting dodo, the rail called Aphanapteryx, and a short-winged heron. Fossil tortoises of great size have been discovered. Terrific cyclones are common ; one in 1892 did tremendous damage to Port Louis and other places. At Port Louis the annual mean is 78° F.; in the uplands the climate resembles that of the south of France. In 1854 the cholera carried off 17,000 people, and thirteen years later 30,000 perished of a malignant fever. The upper classes, very intelligent, cultured, and well educated, are mostly descended from the old French colonists. There is a large number of half-castes, and a considerable body of Negroes, Malagasy, Singhalese, Malays, Chinese, etc. But the greater part of the population consists of Indian coolies, who have been imported nearly every year since 1842 to work the sugar-fields. Pop. (1881) 359,874; (1903) 374,644, of whom 207,000 were Hindus, 113,238 Roman Catholics, 41,200 Mohammedans, and 6650 Protestants. The chief towns are Port Louis (q.v.), the capital, on the north-west coast; Curepipe (pop. 7880); and Mahebourg (4490) on the south coast. There are 105 miles of railway. The one great crop of the island is sugar; and the other exports include rum, cocoa-nut oil, vanilla, and aloe fibres (Mauritius hemp). The crown colony of Mauritius, with its dependencies the Seychelles Islands, Rodriguez, Diego Garcia, and several minor islands, is administered by a governor, aided by an executive council. The island, then uninhabited, was discovered by Mascarenhas (see Mascarenes) in 1507. The Portuguese held it till 1598; the Dutch, who named it after their Prince Maurice, from 1598 till 1710. It was the French governor Mahe de Labourdonnais (1735-46) who introduced the sugar-cane, and laid the foundation of its prosperity as a colony, during the French occupation (1715-1810). Theodore Hook was treasurer in 1812-18. See works by Grant (1801), Flemyng (1862), Ryan (1864), Boyle (1867), J. G. Baker (1877), G. Clark (1881), E'pinay (French, 1890), Decotter (French, 1891), and Keller (1901).