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By Craig Nisbet (Desroches)
Four months in to my arrival in Seychelles, I’d like to share some of my first impressions of my new home and some of my highlights so far.
I’m now in post as the new Conservation Officer on Desroches for the Island Conservation Society (ICS) and have been joined by my partner, Francesca Clair, who has also made the journey south from Scotland this month. We join Jean-Claude Camille, the long-serving Conservation Ranger on Desroches to complete the new ICS team. The island bid farewell to Matthew Morgan and Annabelle Cupidon as they have now started their new roles for ICS on the remote Farquhar Atoll. In their two years here, they have overseen some dramatic changes on the island, particularly with the development of the new Four Seasons Resort. They’ve certainly left their mark here, contributing significantly to the content featured at the Discovery Centre that is managed by WiseOceans, and also with the installation of the fantastic Native Tree Trail in the tortoise sanctuary that provides visitors (and staff!) with an excellent opportunity to learn about the native trees of Desroches.
Having spent the last five years working on seabird islands in Shetland and north-west Scotland, I was particularly excited to see some of the spectacular Seychellois marine avifauna during my time here. While Desroches doesn’t support the vast number of seabirds that dominate some of the other islands here, it does have its fair share of roosting, visiting and passage birds, as well as two modest colonies of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters that prevail in spite of the current presence of the invasive Black Rat. Despite passing views of Fairy Terns, Bridled Terns, White-tailed Tropicbirds, Great and Lesser Frigatebirds, a Brown Noddy and the regular small flocks of Greater Crested Terns, undoubtedly the avian highlight of my time here so far has been a long-staying Collared Pratincole that appeared to be very comfortable on the island’s airstrip. A spectacular-looking migrant bird that breeds across southern Eurasia and winters in sub-Saharan Africa, it is one species that I have been keen to see for many years, although quite what this adult in breeding plumage is doing on a remote island in the Indian Ocean is beyond me!
During a fantastic 11-day induction with my predecessors on the island we tried to cover all aspects of the job I have taken on, including the various underwater monitoring activities that we cover on the island in the form of sea surface temperature monitoring, Crown of Thorns monitoring and control and coral reef surveys, the latter of which will take place in November after the South-East monsoon. During this time the Nekton Mission were conducting marine surveys of the drop-off to the south of Desroches, and as part of their research they asked for assistance from ICS and Blue Safari in collecting coral and seagrass samples. After the sampling dive and a quick tour around the Nekton research vessel, we stopped for a snorkel near the drop-off and as Kelly from Blue Safari dived in, she quickly surfaced again and spluttered, ‘Manta Ray!!!’.
We grabbed our cameras and followed a beautiful giant of the Oceans swimming slowly just a few metres below us as we followed for about 5 minutes! I was delighted to have had such an experience so early on in my time on the island, but I was even more happy for Matthew, who after two years of searching and hoping for Manta Rays around Desroches, had finally caught up with one!
With the Green Turtle nesting season having recently kicked off, along with the return of our Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, I’m sure there’s plenty more excitement to come, not to mention the endless migrant and vagrant bird possibilities that visit Seychelles from October onwards each year after breeding in the northern hemisphere. I hope to have many reports of unusual island visitors later in the year but for now, I’m happy to share with you the spectacular (if a little unseasonal!) Collared Pratincole.
In 2019 SFA employees Clara Belmont and Stephanie Marie visited Alphonse for one week to be trained, by ICS staff and PHd student Caitlin McGarigal, on the SeyCCAT acoustic telemetry project. The trainees were briefed on how this technology can be used to examine the movement patterns of target species, how to safely tag fish with transmitters and how to design an effective array of acoustic receivers across marine habitat.
They assisted with the practical task of downloading receivers which involves scuba diving to the seabed, often in poor visibility, locating and removing the receiver so that all the data that it stores can be downloaded at the surface before it is returned and secured again to its mooring block. Thanks Clara and Stephanie for your help!
With around 50 percent of the Seychelles’ landmass created by natural reserves, the islands are the perfect loation for promoting eco-tourism. While tourists visiting the area come for the turquoise waters, white sands and natural beauty, there is evidence to suggest that the number of visitors who wish to experience its unique biodiversity is continually on the rise. Conserving the islands' environment is one of the key principles of responsible travel, whether it’s to find a solution to the plastic bottle problem or ensuring the natural habitat is protected. The question is, how to bridge the gap between growing visitors numbers and promoting responsible travel?
Activities and tours
The trends for embracing sustainable tours and activities has seen a huge increase in the Seychelles, as the modern traveler wants to combine their support for conservation with tourist amenities on their visit to the island. All aspects of the island’s industries, from tour companies to cruise lines, fisheries and hotels should provide sustainable options so that tourists feel like they are being offered a valued experience that contributes to authentic experiences that benefit ecotourism in the Seychelles. For example, wildlife cruises to explore the marine and bird life can benefit both the tourist and support local projects simultaneously. Parents can prioritize staying safe aboard the boat, particularly with small children, so that everyone has a rewarding experience.
Local and economic community
In addition to protecting the wildlife while traveling or getting involved with a Conservation Boot Camp, sustainable travel should also aim to minimize the impact travelers have on the local communities on their vacation in the Seychelles. Trying local delicacies and supporting restaurants, bars and shops is just one aspect of promoting responsible travel. Similarly, offering accommodation that is fitting with sustainability will ensure a more enriching experience that is respectful and considerate of the environmental impact. In doing this, the local economy is likely to flourish and will also benefit the island’s different cultures enormously.
Teach and learn
The shift from traditional modes of tourism has been replaced with the trend of people choosing sustainable options for their vacation and the environmental impact it has on a locality. Furthermore, the ongoing work of conservationists in the Seychelles helps to promote it as an eco-friendly tourist location. Education is vital to ensure the provision of context from what has been seen and experienced from partaking in snorkeling activities at Cap Ternay Marine National Park, boats tours from Mahe to Arideor or in a learning environments. Visitors are more likely to return to a ecotourism destination if they have a better understanding of it is and organizations have created positive ways of bringing responsible travel and tourist numbers together with projects such as the Sovereign Blue Bond.
There are ample opportunities for the green tourist to experience the biodiversity throughout the archipelago islands that will leave a minimal footprint behind, and it is fortunate that the Seychelles communities and organizations are working together to achieve this.
There are more than 1 million plastic bottles purchased each minute in the world. Not only is this number shocking, it is unhealthy for the environment, considering the fact that more than 90% of those bottles are not recycled. The same amount of fossil fuels that can be used to power over 1 million cars in a year is currently used to produce plastic bottles. In addition, the production of plastic bottles requires more that two times the amount of water that is put into the bottles themselves. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that we are in a crisis. Fortunately, there are groups focused on saving our islands, oceans, airways and the like. Below, you will learn more about the problems that plastic bottles pose to the environment as well as the potential solutions that they offer.
The Problem of Plastic Bottles
Each year, over 50 billion bottles of water are used across the globe. Though many environmental efforts have been put in place to quell this number, it is projected to continue on its current trajectory for the foreseeable future. Plastic does not just dissolve overtime, it lasts forever. This presents a unique problem for our oceans and planet overall, considering that there are more than 270,000 tons of plastic floating in the waters of the world.
If everyone were to use at-home water filtration systems and decline the use of plastic bottles, we would be in a more favorable position. Unfortunately, that is not likely. Most all plastic bottles are made with polyethylene terephthalate (PET). When PET plastics degrade, they absorb harmful chemicals and pass them on to the environment. Perhaps it is better to categorize this plastic bottle phenomena as an epidemic of massive proportions. However, in all of human history, we have found solutions to issues that cause massive health issues. There are viable solutions that can allow you to still use plastic while learning to recycle or upcycle them.
The Solution of Plastic Bottles
Plastic bottles are a detriment to the environment when produced and discarded. With this in mind, there are only two ways to lessen the harmful effects. The first: outlaw the production of plastic bottles or heavily tax them. The second: recycle them after they have been used.
The former option seems more feasible, considering that plastic bottles help millions of people to drink clean water everyday. There is no lack of creative ways to recycle your plastic bottles: purchase a filter and use them in perpetuity, use them as plant pots, convert them into workout equipment, use them to build artwork and building structures. In addition, plastic bottles can be used to create clothing, houses, and accessories.
No matter how you decide to recycle your plastic bottles, it is imperative to the future of our planet that you begin immediately or abstain from using them all together. Not only can it save you money and time, it will decrease your individual footprint while helping more than 700 species of animals as well as the future of mankind.
Contributed by Ali Allen
Throughout 2018 on Aride Island Special Reserve, a team of Island Conservation Society Staff were lucky to be part of a training experience focused on vegetation Management. The objective was to increase the survival of Seabirds through improved knowledge of vegetation in protected areas and simultaneously support the Seychelles Magpie Robin population by understanding more about habitat utilisation.
Thanks to the GOS- UNDP-GEF Outer Islands Project ten participants were part of this unique and critical training experience. Over the year, invasive species management, species classification and identification, Health and safety and native vegetation knowledge was acquired by the participants.
The trainings ensured that participants learned practical skills together, which in turn will lead to improving the islands ecosystem. Overall the trainings objectives were met and all believed that the knowledge obtained from the experience would contribute to improved general management of the Special Reserve and to the skills of the Staff involved. Thanks to Nasreen Khan Aride Conservation Officer for keeping us updated!
Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort and Spa showcase their sustainability programme during the 2018 Global Week of Service Signature Site event for Africa and Indian Ocean
The decision to host the event at Labriz was taken based on their track record in leading the way with sustainability actions, from reducing plastic pollution, to conserving local species and investing in the community, therefore Seychelles was chosen as the location to promote Hilton’s commitment to responsible travel and tourism. The Silhouette Foundation has supported and played an enormous part of this work.
To showcase this work Labriz hosted a number of events on the 25th of July on Silhouette Island to which 200 students from different schools on Mahé were in attendance. The morning was filled with captivating and stimulating presentations from the Minister of Tourism, Civil Aviation, Ports and Marine. Mr Didier Dogley, Chairman of the Island Conservation Society (ICS) Mr Adrian Skerrett, Conservation Officer from ICS Thomas Collier, and CEO of the Seychelles Tourism Board Mrs Sherin Francis. Other inspirational speakers included Vice President of Hilton Africa/Indian Ocean Jan Van Der Putten having a one to one fast question and answer session with a local talent and also a panel talking about their leadership roles working as women in the hotel industry.
Additionally, two agreements were signed to commemorate this occasion. The first was the Silhouette Foundation four party agreement which establishes a long-term basis for cooperation and assistance between the parties (namely the Islands Development Company, Island Conservation Society, Hilton Seychelles Labriz resort and Spa and Seychelles National Parks Authority) to conserve, restore and enhance the ecosystems of Silhouette, together with their associated marine environments.
And the second was an agreement between ICS and Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort and Spa in order to formalise and strengthen the partnership between the two organisations in relation to coral reef health and monitoring.
The day was topped off with the invitees and Hilton staff indulging in a scrumptious lunch organised by Labriz. For those who were still energetic travelled to Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort and Spa reef on Mahé to snorkel and visualize the results of the coral reef restoration work in action that the Marine Conservation Society Seychelles (MCSS) is implementing in collaboration with the hotel.
Earth Day 2018 is an urgent call to End Plastic Pollution