Rodrigues, named after the Portuguese explorer Diego Rodrigues, is one of the Mascarene Islands. With a peak elevation of approximately 355 meters, it is located 560 km east of Mauritius island, in the middle of the Indian Ocean. It is 109 km² in size, and surrounded by a coral reef. The capital of the island is Port Mathurin.
As of 2006, the island's population was about 40,000. The main language is Rodriguan Creole, while French and English are spoken or understood by some of the inhabitants. The main religion is Roman Catholicism with a small minorities of other religions. Most of the inhabitants are of mixed African and French descent. The main industries are handicraft, farming, fishing and tourism.
From the 10th century, Arabs have been known to visit the Mascarene Islands. A 12th century map by the Arab geographer Ash-Sharif al-Idrisi, clearly shows the three islands of the Mascarenes as Dina Arobi (Mauritius), Dina Margabin (Réunion) and Dina Moraze (Rodrigues). The island was named after the Portuguese navigator Don Diego Rodriguez in 1528.
From 1601, the Dutch began visiting the island, for fresh supplies of food. In 1691 the Huguenot, François Leguat and 7 companions landed on the island, intending to set up a farming colony of Protestant refugees. Farming was not successful, but there was an abundance of tortoises, turtles, birds, fish and other seafood.
During the 18th century several attempts were made by the French to develop the island. African slaves (ancestors of the present population) were brought to Rodrigues to develop stockbreeding and farming.
In 1809, after a brief battle with the French, British troops took possession of Rodrigues. And with British occupation, slavery was abolished.
In 1968 Mauritius annexed the island of Rodrigues. Today, it is an autonomous region of Mauritius, which aspires to full sovereignty.
Rodrigues is a volcanic island rising from a ridge along the edge of the Mascarene Plateau. Estimated to be from 1-4 million years old, over time Rodrigues has developed a unique environment, including many endemic species: 42 species of trees; the Rodrigues Fruit Bat; two species of bird, the Rodrigues fody and the Rodrigues warbler; and on the reef a species of coral, two species of damselfish and many new species of crustaceans. Other endemic animals such as Rodrigues giant tortoises and Rodrigues Solitaires are now extinct.
The coffee plant café marron, was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered in 1979.[