‘Desroches taught me many things,’ says Priya Didon, a student from the University of Seychelles after a 7-week internship
My recent trip to Desroches was not my first and I am hoping it will not be my last. Five years ago; in 2017, I was allowed to visit the island with the eco-school club whereby I and other students spent a week during the December holidays visiting and learning about the work that ICS, as well as IDC, does around the island.
This year I was given the chance to return to the island as an intern with the Island Conservation Society and my experience has been a fruitful and enlightening one. Certain things were familiar while others were not as there have been a few changes that have occurred during the past five years, especially with the opening of the Four Seasons Hotel Desroches that was still under construction back then.
Seasonality also played an important role in my most recent trip as the weather during the South East Trade Winds is not as kind as during the Northwest Monsoon. The weather was seldom on my side during my 7-week stay as I would find myself having to take out my raincoat whilst on the 11km or 9km turtle patrols on a fair amount of days and even on some occasions having to stop halfway due to bad weather. This was the major difference between my two experiences on the island as rough sea conditions prevented any marine-related activities.
However, that did not prevent me from making the most out of my internship. I was able to work on my bird identification techniques as part of the morning patrols consisted of many sightings of different species. Some were new to me, while others were familiar from my previous internship with ICS on Aride Island last year. I am now able to identify certain key differences such as juveniles from adults, or for certain species those that are breeding and the non-breeding ones, as well as the distinct calls of the most recurrent species. Even now while being back on Mahe I get the thrill of knowing a particular species of bird when I see it flying by.
The morning patrols were full of other interesting findings such as sightings of sea turtles, namely, Green Turtles that are currently in the breeding season which meant that there were lots of turtle tracks to be recorded as well as measured on the beach and also juvenile Hawksbill turtles swimming around close to shore. Sharks and rays were always the highlights of my mornings, however, as I would always get excited whenever I would see a pup or a new species of ray that I had not seen on previous patrols.
Part of the internship also consisted greatly of taking care of juvenile Aldabra Giant Tortoises from hatchlings that are under 1kg to big juveniles ranging up to 9kg who are then released into the wild when they weigh beyond 9kg. These hatchlings are vulnerable to numerous threats such as predation from birds and rats, the vehicles on Desroches also pose a threat as the hatchlings may unintentionally get crushed due to their small sizes but it is also important to note that they are being protected from humans as well as small individuals are likely to get stolen to be sold off or to be kept as pets. Thus, the tortoise sanctuary is a safe space to ensure their growth and safety while ICS does their best to reduce possible threats through constant monitoring of rat and feral cat traps as well as the replenishment of rat poison among other methods of pest control.
I find comfort in nature therefore island life is soothing and comforting due to the peacefulness of being in a serene and undisturbed environment. It does however have its disadvantages, because loving field work made me dislike being in the office, especially on rainy days whereby fieldwork was out of the question.
Pursuing a career in conservation is and has been on my mind for some time as I am keen on not only playing a role in preserving and conserving the environment but also discovering and exploring the beauty hidden in most, if not all of Seychelles’ islands. However, it is surely not for everyone as it is far from the comforts of the Mahe life, far from entertainment and certain facilities depending on which island you go to.
Special thank you goes out to ICS for this amazing opportunity and the IDC team on Desroches as well for all their help during the 7-week stay. I would surely encourage other nature lovers to venture into conservation and uncover nature’s secrets.