The island of Mauritius was used by Dutch ships as a staging post from the end of the 16th century, but it was not until 1637 that the 'Heeren XVII' decided the Company should take possession of the island. A fort was built and manned by 50 to 80 VOC employees, as well as slaves, exiles and convicts. In 1657 the 'Hooge regeering' (Supreme Government) of the VOC in Batavia decided to abandon the island and transfer the population to the Cape of Good Hope. However, in the face of looming French competition the Company decided in 1664 to reoccupy the base. In 1710 the island was left for good. Mauritius was highly suitable as a staging post because it was exceptionally fertile. The island also had a wealth of bird life

including the dodo

as well as turtles and manatees, which were hunted on a large scale. Pigs, deer and goats were also left behind on the island as livestock. The island was particularly important as a source of ebony, large quantities of which were felled in the interior. Plantations were established producing sugar cane, rice, vegetables and fruit.