Day-break on the Aride beach
Luckily these intrusions are soon normalized into your daily routine and even offer a sense of comfort after a spell off the island. The staff on Aride are vastly experienced and possess knowledge of the most intricate details regarding the island’s species. This makes your transition to island life a seamless experience as you are soon introduced to the numerous conservation projects on the island. Your day may start off with a turtle patrol, requiring you to walk the length of the beach in the morning looking for turtle tracks (not the worst way to start a working day), or you can be responsible for feeding the critically endangered Seychelles Magpie Robin, which is part of a re-introductive breeding program. Among the many other activities volunteers participate in is the monitoring of the various seabirds and invertebrates on the island, while you are also required to help in the annual seabird census or a census of Wright’s Gardenia, another critically endangered plant species endemic to the island. Although hard work, these activities provide you with practical experience in the field of conservation and gives you the satisfaction of a job well done when returning from a long day in the forest.
A highlight of my time thus far on Aride has been a training course involving GPS tagging of seabirds under the GOS-UNDP-GEF Outer Islands Project. Presented by WildWings Bird Managements’ Chris Freare and Christine Larose, we were instructed on their tried and tested method for tagging birds with GPS loggers. After first having a go at fitting fake tags on dummy birds, we were given the opportunity to try our hand at the real thing. We quickly realized that working with live animals are considerably more challenging (and painful if they get hold of a finger), but nevertheless we persevered and by the end of the week we all managed to fit tags under the accepted maximum handling time of 10 minutes. We were also interested to see the result of our labors when a tagged Brown Noddy was recaptured and the GPS data of its movements downloaded to reveal the feeding areas used by the bird. Through this information, we were told, it becomes possible to protect endangered bird species by creating Marine Protected Areas (MPA’s) around their prominent feeding zones.
Personally my time on Aride has achieved its goals in affirming my future career aspirations. I came to Aride unsure about which path I would take with my Biological Sciences degree, but the rewarding work I have experienced on Aride has ensured it will remain in environmental conservation.
*Willem Malherbe is a MSc graduate in Fisheries Sciences from South Africa.