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La Réunion
Overseas region & department of France
Flag of La Réunion
Coat of arms of La Réunion
Coat of arms
Département 974 in France (zoom).svg
Country  France
Prefecture Saint-Denis
Departments 1
 • President of Regional Council Didier Robert
 • Total 2,511 km2 (970 sq mi)
Population (Jan. 2013)[1]
 • Total 844,994
 • Density 340/km2 (870/sq mi)
Time zone RET (UTC+04)
ISO 3166 code RE
GDP (2013)[2] Ranked
Total €16.7 billion (US$22.2 bn)
Per capita €19,854 (US$26,369)
Website Prefecture
Regional Council
Departmental Council

Réunion (French: La Réunion, IPA: [la ʁeynjɔ̃]; previously Île Bourbon) is a French island with a population of 844,994 inhabitants (as of January 2014[1]) located in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar, about 175 kilometres (109 mi) southwest of Mauritius, the nearest island.

Administratively, Réunion is one of the overseas departments of France. Like the other four overseas departments, Réunion is also one of the 27 regions of France, with the modified status of overseas regions, and an integral part of the Republic with the same status as those situated on the European mainland.

Réunion is an outermost region of the European Union and, as an overseas department of France, a part of the Eurozone.[3]


10 cent. 1816 Isle de Bourbon

Before the arrival of the Portuguese in the early sixteenth century, there is little European knowledge of Réunion's history.[4] Arab traders were familiar with it by the name Dina Morgabin.[5] The island is possibly featured on a map from 1153 AD by Al Sharif el-Edrisi.[6] The island may also have been visited by Swahili or Malay sailors.[4]

The first European discovery of the area was made around 1507 by Portuguese explorers, but the specifics are unclear. The uninhabited island may have been first sighted by the expedition led by Dom Pedro Mascarenhas, who gave his name to the island group around Réunion, the Mascarenes.[7] Réunion itself was dubbed Santa Apolónia after a favorite saint,[5] which suggests that the date of the Portuguese discovery may have been February 9, her saint day. Diogo Lopes de Sequeira is said to have landed on the islands of Reunion and Rodrigues in 1509.[6]

Over a century later, nominal Portuguese rule had left Santa Apolónia virtually untouched.[7] The island was then occupied by France and administered from Port Louis, Mauritius. Although the first French claims date from 1638, when François Cauche and Salomon Goubert visited in June 1638,[8] the island was officially claimed by Jacques Pronis of France in 1642, when he deported a dozen French mutineers to the island from Madagascar. The convicts were returned to France several years later, and in 1649, the island was named Île Bourbon after the House of Bourbon. Colonization started in 1665, when the French East India Company sent the first 20 settlers.

"Réunion" was the name given to the island in 1793 by a decree of the Convention with the fall of the House of Bourbon in France, and the name commemorates the union of revolutionaries from Marseille with the National Guard in Paris, which took place on 10 August 1792. In 1801, the island was renamed "Île Bonaparte", after Napoleon Bonaparte. The island was invaded by a Royal Navy squadron led by Commodore Josias Rowley in 1810, who used the old name of “Bourbon”. When it was restored to France by the Congress of Vienna in 1815, the island retained the name of "Bourbon" until the fall of the restored Bourbons during the French Revolution of 1848, when the island was once again given the name “Réunion”.

From the 17th to the 19th centuries, French colonization, supplemented by importing Africans, Chinese, and Indians as workers contributed to a range of ethnicities. Starting from 1690, most of the non-Europeans were enslaved. The colony abolished slavery on 20 December 1848. Afterwards, many of the foreign workers came as indentured workers. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 reduced the importance of the island as a stopover on the East Indies trade route.

Hindu festival, 19th century

During the Second World War, Réunion was under the authority of the Vichy Regime until 30 November 1942, when Free French forces took over the island with the destroyer Léopard. Réunion became a département d'outre-mer (overseas départment) of France on 19 March 1946. Its département code is 974.

For close to two decades in the late twentieth century (1968–1982), 1,630 children from Réunion were relocated to rural areas of metropolitan France, particularly to Creuse, ostensibly for education and work opportunities. Many were abused or disadvantaged by the families with whom they were placed. The fate of these children, known as les enfants de la Creuse, was brought to light in 2002. Réunion exile Jean-Jacques Martial filed a suit against influential Gaullist politician Michel Debré (who had been a MP for Réunion at the time and was the chief mover behind the program) for "kidnapping of a minor, roundup and deportation".[9] In 2005, a similar case was brought against the French government by the Association of Réunion of Creuse.[10]

In 2005 and 2006, Réunion was hit by a crippling epidemic of chikungunya, a disease spread by mosquitoes. According to the BBC News, 255,000 people on Réunion had contracted the disease as of 26 April 2006.[11] The neighboring islands of Mauritius and Madagascar also suffered epidemics of this disease during the same year.[12][13] A few cases also appeared in mainland France, carried by people traveling by airline. The French government of Dominique de Villepin sent an emergency aid package worth 36 million Euro ($57.6M U.S. dollars) and deployed approximately five hundred French troops in an effort to eradicate mosquitoes on the island.

On 29 July 2015, a two-metre long piece of an airplane wing, identified as most probably being a flaperon from a Boeing 777, was found washed up on the island by a group of local people cleaning a beach. The piece was covered in barnacles indicating that it had been in the ocean for some time. Subsequently, the find is being investigated by multiple agencies, including Malaysian, French, and Australian aviation authorities, in order to determine whether it is part of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which went missing in March 2014.[14] The wreckage, and a piece of a suitcase found the next day, were flown to the DGA in Toulouse, France for analysis.


Main article: Politics of Réunion
Map of the European Union in the world with overseas countries and territories and outermost regions

Réunion sends seven deputies to the French National Assembly and three senators to the Senate.

Administrative divisions[edit]

Administratively, Réunion is divided into four arrondissements, 49 cantons and 24 communes (municipalities).[15] It is a French overseas département as well as a French region. The low number of communes, compared to French metropolitan departments of similar size and population, is unique; most Réunionnaises communes encompass several localities, sometimes separated by significant distances. Réunion is part of the Indian Ocean Commission.


Map of Réunion


Main article: Geography of Réunion

The island is 63 kilometres (39 mi) long; 45 kilometres (28 mi) wide; and covers 2,512 square kilometres (970 sq mi). It is a little over three-fifths the size of Rhode Island, the smallest U.S. State in area. It is located above a hotspot in the Earth's crust.

The Piton de la Fournaise, a shield volcano on the eastern end of Réunion Island, rises more than 2,631 metres (8,632 ft) above sea level and is sometimes called a sister to Hawaiian volcanoes because of the similarity of climate and volcanic nature. It has erupted more than 100 times since 1640 and is under constant monitoring. It most recently erupted on 5 February 2015.[16] Before that, the most noticeable was during April 2007, when the lava flow was estimated at 3,000,000 cubic metres (3,900,000 cu yd) per day.[17] The Piton de la Fournaise is created by a hotspot volcano, which also created the Piton des Neiges and the islands of Mauritius and Rodrigues.

The Piton des Neiges volcano, the highest point on the island at 3,070 metres (10,070 ft) above sea level, is north west of the Piton de la Fournaise. Collapsed calderas and canyons are south west of the mountain. Like Kohala on the Big Island of Hawaii, the Piton des Neiges is extinct. Despite its name, snow (French: neige) practically never falls on the summit.

The slopes of both volcanoes are heavily forested. Cultivated land and cities like the capital city of Saint-Denis are concentrated on the surrounding coastal lowlands. Offshore, part of the west coast is characterised by a coral reef system.

Réunion also has three calderas: the Cirque de Salazie, the Cirque de Cilaos and the Cirque de Mafate. The last is accessible only on foot or by helicopter.


The climate in Réunion is tropical, but temperature moderates with elevation. The weather is cool and dry from May to November, and hot and rainy from November to April. Precipitation levels vary greatly within the island, with the east being much wetter than the west. There is more than 6 m of rain a year on some parts of the east and less than 1 m a year on the west coast.[18] Réunion holds the world record for the most rainfall in a 12-, 72-, and 96-hour period.[19]


The island has been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.[20]


Main article: Wildlife of Réunion

Réunion is home to a variety of birds such as the white-tailed tropicbird (French: paille en queue).[21] Its largest land animal is the panther chameleon, Furcifer pardalis. Much of the West coast is ringed by coral reef which harbours, among other animals, sea urchins, conger eels and parrot fish. Sea turtles and dolphins also inhabit the coastal waters. Humpback whales migrate north to the island from the Antarctic waters annually during the Southern Hemisphere winter (June–September) to breed and feed, and can be routinely observed from the shores of Réunion during this season.

At least 19 species formerly endemic to Réunion have become extinct following human colonization.

Between 2011 and 2015, there were 17 shark attacks in the waters of Réunion of which seven were fatal.[22] In July 2013 the Prefect of Réunion Michel Lalande announced a ban on swimming, surfing and bodyboarding off more than half of the coast. Lalande also said 45 bull sharks and 45 tiger sharks would be culled, in addition to the 20 already killed as part of scientific research into the illness ciguatera.[23]


Ethnic groups present include people of African, Indian, European, Malagasy and Chinese origin. Local names for these are: Yabs, Cafres, Malbars and Zarabes (both ethnic groups of Indian origin) and Chinois. All of the ethnic groups comprising the island are immigrant populations that have come to Réunion from Europe, Asia and Africa over the centuries. There are no indigenous people on the island as it was originally deserted.[24] These populations have mixed from the earliest days of the island's colonial history (indeed, the first settlers married women from Madagascar and of Indo-Portuguese heritage) resulting in a majority population of mixed race and of "Creole" culture.

It is not known exactly how many people there are of each ethnicity since the French census does not ask questions there about ethnic origin,[25] which applies in Réunion because it is a part of the 1958 constitution, and also due to the extent of racial mixing on the island. According to estimates, whites (petits blancs and gros blancs) make up approximately one-quarter of the population,[26] Indians make up roughly a quarter, and people of Chinese ancestry form roughly 3%. The percentages for mixed race people and those of Afro-Malagasy origins vary widely in estimates. There are also some people of Vietnamese ancestry on the island, though they are very few in number.[27][28][29]

People of South Indian origin make up the majority of the Réunionnais of Indian origin; Gujarati, Bihari and other origins form the remainder of the population.[30] The island's community of Muslims from North Western India, particularly Gujarat, and elsewhere is commonly referred to as Zarab.

Creoles (a name given to those born on the island, regardless of ethnic origins), make up the majority of the population. Groups that are not creole include people recently arrived from Metropolitan France (known as zoreils) and those from Mayotte and the Comoros.

Historical demographics[edit]

Year Population Year Population Year Population
1671 90 1830 101,300 1961 349,282
1696 269 1848 110,300 1967 416,525
1704 734 1849 120,900 1974 476,675
1713 1,171 1860 200,000 1982 515,814
1717 2,000 1870 212,000 1990 597,823
1724 12,550 1887 163,881 1999 706,300
1764 25,000 1897 173,192 2006 781,962
1777 35,100 1926 182,637 2011 828,581
1789 61,300 1946 241,708 2013 840,974
1826 87,100 1954 274,370
Official data from INSEE by census or estimate; estimates shown in italics.


Catholic church of Notre-Dame-des-Neiges in Cilaos

The predominant religion is Christianity, notably Roman Catholicism (86% according to GCatholic), with a single (Latin Rite) jurisdiction, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saint-Denis-de-La Réunion. Religious Intelligence estimates Christians to be 84.9% of the population, Hindus 6.7% and Muslims 2.15%.[31]

Hinduism, Islam, Chinese folk religion and Buddhism are also represented, among others. Most large towns have a Hindu temple and mosque, allowing the Hindu and Muslim communities to practice their religion.[32]


Réunionese culture is a blend (métissage) of European, African, Indian, Chinese and insular traditions.

The most widely spoken language, Réunion Creole, derives from French.

Local food and music blend influences from Africa, India, China and Europe, resulting in a unique, diverse culture.


French is the only official language of Réunion. Although not official, Réunion Creole is the native language of a large part of the population and is spoken alongside French. Creole is used informally whereas the official language of any administration, office as well as education is French.[33]

Due to the diverse population, other languages such as Mandarin, Hakka and Cantonese are also spoken by members of the Chinese community, but fewer people speak these languages as younger generations start to converse in French and Réunion Creole. The number of speakers of Indian languages (mostly Urdu, Gujarati and Tamil) is also dropping sharply. Arabic is taught in mosques and spoken by a small community of Muslims.

English is a compulsory second language as part of the French school curriculum, but as in mainland France, English fluency is rare. German and Spanish are offered as a third language. Tamil is also taught as optional language in some schools.[30]




The Internet Movie Database lists three films with Réunion as their filming locations:


  • Antenne Réunion
  • Réunion 1ière
  • Télé Kréol
  • Fox Crime Reunion
  • FX Reunion
  • Fox Movies Reunion
  • AntenneFox
  • Fox News Reunion
  • Fox 64 Reunion(SDRE)

Online media[edit]

  • Z'infos974
  • Linfo


Main article: Economy of Réunion

In 2013, the GDP of Réunion was estimated at 16.7 billion euros (US$22.2 bn) and the GDP per capita was 19,854 euros (US$26,369).[2]

Sugar was traditionally the chief agricultural product and export. Tourism is now an important source of income.[36] Unemployment is a major problem on Réunion; the rate stood at 30 percent in 2014 and 60 percent among young people. According to Le Monde, 42 percent of the population lived below the poverty line in 2010.[37]

Public services[edit]


There are no public health threats. In 2005–2006, Réunion experienced an epidemic of chikungunya, a viral disease similar to dengue fever brought in from East Africa, which infected almost a third of the population due to its transmission through mosquitoes. The epidemic has since been eradicated. See the History section for more details.


Main article: Transport in Réunion

Roland Garros Airport serves the island, handling flights to Madagascar, Mauritius, South Africa and Europe. Pierrefonds Airport, a smaller airport, has some flights to Mauritius and Madagascar.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b INSEE. "Estimation de population par région, sexe et grande classe d'âge - Années 1975 à 2014" (in French). Retrieved 2015-07-11. 
  2. ^ a b "GDP per capita in the EU in 2013: seven capital regions among the ten most prosperous" (PDF). Eurostat. Retrieved 30 July 2015. 
  3. ^ Réunion is pictured on all Euro banknotes, on the back at the bottom of each note, right of the Greek ΕΥΡΩ (EURO) next to the denomination.
  4. ^ a b Slaves, freedmen, and indentured laborers in colonial Mauritius By Richard Blair Allen. pg. 9
  5. ^ a b Tabuteau, Jacques (1987). Histoire de la justice dans les Mascareignes (in French). Paris: Océan éditions. p. 13. ISBN 2-907064-00-2. Retrieved 11 June 2011. 
  6. ^ a b "Histoire de La Réunion". Iledelareunion.net. Retrieved 2013-03-12. 
  7. ^ a b Moriarty, Cpt. H.A. (1891). Islands in the southern Indian Ocean westward of Longitude 80 degrees east, including Madagascar. London: Great Britain Hydrographic Office. p. 269. OCLC 416495775. 
  8. ^ "| Journal de l'île de la Réunion". Clicanoo.re. Retrieved 2013-03-12. 
  9. ^ Jean-Jacques Martial (2003). Une enfance volée. Les Quatre Chemins. p. 113. ISBN 978-2-84784-110-7. Retrieved 13 September 2012. 
  10. ^ Châtain, Georges (August 18, 2005). "Les Réunionnais de la Creuse veulent faire reconnaître leur " déportation " en métropole "". Le Monde. Retrieved September 13, 2012. 
  11. ^ "Island disease hits 50,000 people". BBC News. 2 February 2006. Retrieved 18 August 2007. 
  12. ^ wwwnc.cdc.gov
  13. ^ "Madagascar hit by mosquito virus". BBC News. 6 March 2006. Retrieved 18 August 2007. 
  14. ^ "MH370 search: Debris found on Réunion being sent to France". BBC News. 30 July 2015. Retrieved 30 July 2015. 
  15. ^ "Insee - Code Officiel Géographique". Insee.fr. Retrieved 6 May 2009. 
  16. ^ (French) Institut de physique du Globe de Paris : Actualités
  17. ^ Thomas Staudacher (7 April 2007). "Reunion sees 'colossal' volcano eruption, but population safe". AFP. Archived from the original on 9 April 2007. Retrieved 18 August 2007.  (Web archive)
  18. ^ Jacques Libert. "la pluviométrie". Pedagogie2.ac-reunion.fr. Retrieved 2013-03-12. 
  19. ^ "World Meteorological Organization: Global Weather & Climate Extremes". Arizona State University. 
  20. ^ "Pitons, cirques and remparts of Reunion Island". UNESCO. Retrieved 30 July 2015. 
  21. ^ (French) L'Île de la Réunion.com: Le paille en queue
  22. ^ http://www.lemonde.fr/biodiversite/article/2015/04/17/comment-la-reunion-lutte-contre-les-requins-bouledogue-apres-une-nouvelle-attaque-mortelle_4618200_1652692.html
  23. ^ "Big Read: Reunion Island beset by shark controversy". News Corp Australia. 2013-08-30. 
  24. ^ Bollée, Annegret (2015). "French on the Island of Bourbon (Réunion)". Journal of Language Contact 8 (1): 91. doi:10.1163/19552629-00801005. 
  25. ^ "SSRN-Why France Needs to Collect Data on Racial Identity - In a French Way by David Oppenheimer". Papers.ssrn.com. SSRN 1236362. 
  26. ^ Holm, John A. (1989). Pidgins and Creoles: References survey. Cambridge University Press. p. 394. ISBN 0-521-35940-6. 
  27. ^ Clicanoo. "La Réunion Métisse". 
  28. ^ "Anthropometric evaluations of body composition of undergraduate students at the University of La Réunion". 2006. Retrieved 2011-08-21. 
  29. ^ [1][dead link]
  30. ^ a b "NRI" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-04-16. 
  31. ^ Religious Intelligence profile on Réunion[dead link]
  32. ^ "Réunion". newworldencyclopedia.org. 
  33. ^ "Ethnologue report (language code:rcf)". Ethnologue.com. Retrieved 2010-04-16. 
  34. ^ Johnny Backstage (Video 2005) - IMDb
  35. ^ Reunion Island: An Overview (Video 2010) - IMDb
  36. ^ [2], 2012 Elefant Tours
  37. ^ "Hollande va " adapter " le pacte de responsabilité à la Réunion" (in French). Le Monde. Retrieved 22 August 2014. 


External links[edit]

General information

Coordinates: 21°06′52″S 55°31′57″E / 21.11444°S 55.53250°E / -21.11444; 55.53250