Island Conservation Society staff at Aride Island Nature Reserve have long fought a lonely battle against poachers, who come to the island trampling through sensitive breeding grounds to take nesting seabirds and eggs. Meanwhile, whereas the marine ecosystem is protected in theory to a distance of 1 kilometre, in practice this means nothing to poachers who raid reefs and damage corals around the island. Poachers will even sometimes kill birds senselessy and leave the corpses on the nature trail, perhaps as a message to ICS staff that they believe they are immune from prosecution.
Perhaps this is all about to change dramatically. ICS lacks the manpower and a vessel to combat poaching. Seychelles Coastguard does not. The two organisations have now teamed up to provide Aride island with the protection it deserves.
Read more at these resources:
Seychelles Nation press release
Seychelles Nation article
Seychelles News Agency
ICS Ranger, Saïd Harryba, took part in a short video for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) StoryWorks Programme in partnership with the Seychelles Tourism Board. The StoryWorks media programme promotes stories on various themes to inspire curious minds across the globe, especially during the current Covid-19 pandemic.
Said joined ICS as a Conservation Ranger in 2016 based at Silhouette Island Conservation Centre. He was promoted to the post of Assistant Conservation Officer in 2020.
BBC StoryWorks is the content studio of BBC Global News. It works to create beautifully crafted stories that inspire people across the globe.
The BBC video may be viewed at this link.
The Greenpeace International vessel Arctic Sunrise has arrived at Port Victoria and will be conducting scientific research at the Saya de Malha Bank between Seychelles and Mauritius up to 30 March 2021.
The purpose of this expedition is to collect information about the biological diversity present at the Saya de Malha Bank and to contribute to knowledge of the value of such sites for conservation. This will include mapping marine diversity of the region including sharks and whales by means of environmental DNA sampling. Seagrass meadows and coral reefs will also be studied.
Island Conservation Society received a grant from Greenpeace in 2015 to assist in the work commenced in 2014 to help better understand the impacts of FADs in the outer islands of Seychelles. ICS created and uploaded a video podcast on YouTube to help describe the problem at hand, which can be viewed here.
Sadly, FADs continue to be a serious issue, causing damage to coral reefs throughout Seychelles. This has already been highlighted in 2021 by ICS on this blog and in articles published in Seychelles Nation and Today in Seychelles.
ICS has joined other stakeholders to celebrate National Protected Areas Day and contributed an article to the local media.
Seychelles has declared 30% of its Exclusive Economic Zone as protected, approximately the size of Germany. In terms of terrestrial coverage, Seychelles has one of the highest ratios in the world, with 47% of its total landmass protected. Aride Island is one of these protected areas.
The full news article can be accessed here.
Aride Island is the flagship island of ICS. It is the largest nature reserve in the granitic islands, with more seabirds than any other Seychelles island, five endemic land birds and its own unique plant. It is surrounded by waters with a rich marine life. Our new website has recently been launched featuring galleries and information on over 200 species of Seychelles flora and fauna.
The January to March 2021 edition of Silhouette , the in-flight magazine of Air Seychelles features an article with a selection of wildlife. The article may be downloaded here.
This is just a sample of what can be seen online. The full website and galleries may be seen here.
ICS has again highlighted in local media the damage being done to marine ecosystems in the Indian Ocean by the use of Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) by tuna fleets.
Ships have been strictly banned from throwing trash overboard for more than 30 years. Yet over the same period up to two million FADs have been dumped at sea each year and in most cases are not recovered. They are a legalised, poorly regulated form of marine pollution, employed by the richest fishing industry in the world to improve its productivity.
Tuna was probably overfished in many parts of the world even before the widespread use of FADs, when pelagic tuna fleets targeted solely free-swimming schools of tuna. FADs are subject to little regulation. Nor has much attention been given to the environmental impact and the work inflicted on NGOs such as ICS attempting to defend fragile island and marine ecosystems when FADs wash ashore.
The average FAD-caught fish is smaller and their use incurs a relatively large bycatch, including several species of pelagic sharks, turtles and juvenile fish. On top of that, FADs are washing ashore at almost every island in Seychelles, smothering coral reefs with tentacles of rope. It is back-breaking work to remove FADs entangled on reefs. It is arguably a form of marine pollution.
The latest ICS article was published today 9 January 2021 and can be read in full in Today in Seychelles here and in Seychelles Nation here.
Two rarities have been sighted by Island Conservation Society staff at Farquhar within the space of two days. On 4 January, Annabelle Cupidon was cycling to the Farquhar airstrip to look for vagrant birds when she saw a flash of red feathers in a bwa blanc tree near the road. Then the bird flew towards Coco Edok marsh where she got a better view and was able to confirm identification as a Broad-billed Roller. The nominate race of Broad-billed Roller breeds at Madagascar migrating to East Africa. Other races are resident sub-Saharan Africa. This is the fourth report from Farquhar since ICS established a Conservation Centre there.
Two days later on 6 January, while conducting a beach patrol at Ile Déposées, Annabelle Cupidon and Matthew Morgan spotted another unusual visitor, a Western Yellow Wagtail. This is the first report of any vagrant species from this tiny island and the third for the atoll as whole (all three since the establishment of the ICS Conservation Centre at Farquhar).
Island Conservation Society has partnered with Professor Mathieu Le Corre of the University of Reunion to conduct research on Red-footed Boobies nesting at Farquhar Atoll. The project is looking into abundance, habitat preference and distribution at sea using GPS devices, drones and genetic sampling. An end of year update has been given by ICS in local media.
For more details see: Matthew Morgan (31 December 2020) The Red-footed Boobies of Farquhar Atoll. Today in Seychelles
Arts teacher and Eco-Schools leader Beryl Serret, from Anse Royale primary school, has donated one of her paintings to Island Conservation Society (ICS).
"I have over ten years’ experience in the profession but four years as the Eco-Schools leader, responsible for the implementation of the Seychelles' Eco-Schools programme in Anse Royale primary school" said Ms Serret. "I recently developed a keen interest in Aride Special Reserve following a series of interactive class presentations on ICS and its conservation programmes delivered at the school.”
The painting depicts the diverse reptile species found on Aride Island. It has already been used on a new website launched just before Christmas 2020. It can be viewed on the website along with other paintings and photographs of Aride's unique wildlife here.
The Island Conservation Society team on Silhouette has successfully grown and propagated Wright's Gardenia, thought to have been eradicated from the island by the clearance of land for agriculture and other human development following colonisation. However, the plant survived on Aride Special Reserve – an island which is ecologically managed by ICS.
Wright’s Gardenia Rothmannia annae or Bwa Sitron in Creole, is one of the most beautiful endemic trees in the Seychelles and has heavily scented flowers.
More details of about this and other plants of Aride can be found on the Aride Island website
The full news article may be read here.