Category Archives: Sanctuary at Roche Caiman

Turning bad dogs into good dogs

Re-domesticating the dogs

Feral animals can become a problem for tourism and wildlife. Feral dogs have been found begging for food on a couple of beaches and a few restaurants. The veterinary services have had to trap these dogs because of nuisance and public health issues.

The impact on wildlife is even worse. On small islands, especially ones like Seychelles in which evolution has taken place in the absence of  mammalian predators like rats, cats and dogs, the presence of these animals can be devastating. For example, domestic cats have been responsible for the extinctions of at least 33 bird species worldwide. This has often happened on small islands where domestic cats becoming semi-wild, or feral.

In the Sanctuary at Roche Caiman, an urban wetland reserve adjacent to the national sports complex, feral dogs have wreaked havoc on birds in the past. As the local association managing this Sanctuary, Nature Seychelles has turned away from the traditional control methods of trapping or poisoning and started a new initiative – re-domesticating the dogs.

A brainchild of Nirmal Shah, the Chief Executive and himself an avid dog lover, the initiative has started to reap rewards. By befriending and regularly feeding the dogs outside the Sanctuary and close to the association’s headquarters the animals are now sleeping within the office compound rather than in the Sanctuary. “They have become very protective of this space and have become excellent guard dogs since our office is in a rather isolated setting”, says Shah.

“I think we need to proceed humanely in these situations”, continues Shah. But it can’t always be possible in all situations, he admits.  Shah is asking the public not to discard unwanted animals so they become feral. He says this is a danger both to humans and wildlife. He also encourages dog and cat owners to take advantage of the brilliant campaign by another association, the SSPCA, to neuter pets. This is the best way to control the population of dogs and cats, he concludes.

Members of the Japan-Seychelles Association visit the Sanctuary

The visitors gamely smell noni fruit

On 9 August, we played host to a group 16 people who are members of the Japan-Seychelles Association in the Kyoto City region.  Two university professors accompanied  thirteen primary school teachers most and one junior high school girl student to a visit of our sites – the Sanctuary at Roche Caiman and Heritage Garden. Martin Varley, our community coordinator conducted the group around the sites and explained their importance and the functions they fulfill.

The group enjoyed going through the garden and learning about the various traditional plants. Martin even coaxed some of the visitors into smelling Noni fruit, which has a rather pungent smell. He made up for it by crashing the leaves of some of the herbs in the garden for the visitors to take in their lovely aromas.

“Our purpose of visiting Seychelles is to learn about the environment and conservation education of Seychelles and know how it is performed, and we got many hints for the Japanese side to improve our  own here,” said Prof. Takesato Watanabe

“Our members found that your environment education has been done among all the people of the country and schools. Organization like yours are well organized and effectively working together with your government and international networks,” he said.

Other features of the Sanctuary that the visitors found interesting were the boardwalk and bird hide made entirely of recycled plastic.

Green health: reconnecting people with nature

Saturday July 2, 2011 marked another exciting milestone  for Nature Seychelles –  the official launching of Green Health Seychelles – our new and innovative programme. Attended by a cross section of Seychellois, residents, members and friends of Nature Seychelles, the launch held at the Sanctuary at Roche Caiman, introduced to the public the green health concept that uses nature to improve health.

Here is a slide show of the days events:

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YouTube DirektGreen Health Seychelles Launch

A full story on the launch is on our website.

Saving wetlands

This year’s theme for World Wetlands Day, celebrated on 2 February, is Forests for water and wetlands. The theme has been chosen to correspond with 2011 as the  UN International Year of Forests. The theme asks us to look at the ‘big picture’ of forests and wetlands in our lives. So today we’ll tell you something small about the wetland we manage.

The Sanctuary at Roche Caiman is a 2.9 ha freshwater wetland close to the sea. The site which  resulted from reclamation works on the East Coast of Mahe in the 80s is popular as an outdoors classroom, for bird watching and is now the site, alongside the Heritage Garden, of our green health activities started to increase public interest in conservation.

The site’s vegetation consists of native and introduced coastal trees such as Casuarinas, Badamier (Indian Almond, Terminalia catappa), Kalis Dipap (Tabebuia pallida) and a small number of Takamaka (Calophyllum inophyllum), with invasive reeds such as Typha javanica (Zon) and other dense emergent vegetation. There are two species of mangroves in some parts of the wetland.

Abundant invertebrates dominated by dragonflies and damselflies inhabit the area; they include palm spiders, water skater and crabs. Vertebrates include four species of freshwater fish with an endemic species, frogs, skinks and eleven species of birds mostly herons and some natives and migrants.

The Sanctuary provides school children with a valuable outdoor classroom for their curricula. It is also a recreation area for the general public. Schools and the community around Roche Caiman as well as from elsewhere on Mahe, tourists groups looking for a natural spot within the city limits, and religious groups seeking for the solace granted by nature have been hosted by staff at the wetland. We view this as an opportunity to raise public awareness of wetland values and benefits in general.

discovering pond creatures

discovering pond creatures

Nature Seychelles has undertaken extensive restoration on the site in order to enhance the pre-existing habitats and to create additional habitats so that the wetland can benefit from more species. A boardwalk runs through the Sanctuary with wayside panels and signboards displaying text and illustrations of the ecosystem and facilitating guiding.

wayside exhibtry is used for teaching

wayside exhibtry is used for teaching

The recently constructed Nature X centre is used for our green health activities and has been the meeting point for enthusiasts of our yoga classes.

Originally we had envisaged the Sanctuary as an ‘open air classroom’ to cater for the practical needs of students. But interests have both grown and been varied and a full programme that will cater to these needs, will soon be launched.

Clearing invasive Typha at the Sanctuary at Roche Caiman

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Here is a you tube video of our efforts to manage the aquatic reed Typha javanica,  Zon in Creole. The reed has become invasive and is taking over the central marsh area at the popular urban wetland, the Sanctuary at Roche Caiman.

Picture of the Day: Watch out for the Palm spider, it doesn’t bite though



Here are photos of the Palm spider, Nephila inaurita a native of Seychelles taken at the wetland at Roche Caiman. I thought I would share them because I keep on walking into them. These large spiders are everywhere in Seychelles. We saw many on the hike on Mont Palmiste. The females sit at the centre of a large web built from heavy strands of silk. The spiders are harmless though, but if you have arachnophobia, you probably wouldn’t want to run into one or hold one as Terence did.

Update on Frigatebird

TV’s interview with SBC Radio

Terence (L) and David (Science Coordinator, R) were interviewed about the bird by SBC Radio

The Frigatebird recovered and left. One day last week we went to check on it, as we have been doing every morning, and it was gone from the mangroves where it had been making steady progress towards recovery. For the past week staff at Nature Seychelles have been feeding the bird with fish. At first it had to be force-fed but eventually it got to feeding itself. Soon we noticed it was moving around. It had in fact originally moved from the Bird hide to the mangroves by itself.

The bird has generated quite some interest with both SBC Radio and TV recording nature programmes around it. More about those programmes when they air, but they focused on the bird, where its found in the Seychelles and steps to take when one finds an injured bird.

Mr. Hoareau and the bees

When Nature Seychelles first attempted to hung a beehive at the Heritage Garden, the only creatures that seemed to benefit were the lizards (Seychelles Skink) abundant on most Islands. A queen bee had been discovered in the Garden with many bees around her. So Mr. Hoareau, a bee expert with 40 years experience was called in to organize the colony and collect some honey. However efforts came to naught when in Terence’s words, ” a bunch of lizards had a big feast on the bees’ larvae and also ate up all the honey”. The skinks had discovered an entrance to the hives.

Mr. Hoareau’s and his bees

Mr. Hoareau has been called in again to jump start our honey project. This time he comes prepared. He has sealed all entry into the beehive and designed the hive in a manner to only allow entry for the bees. Mr. Hoareau is photographed below at work attracting the bees to his hives using citronella from the Garden and other sweet smelling plants.

Mr. Hoareau’s with a hive

The beekeeping project at the Heritage Garden is intended to encourage the community to start similar projects. Honey was used in traditional medicine in the Seychelles and has many benefits. It is however becoming expensive to buy. It is our hope that this project takes off, and that we get to the honey before the skinks!

Catch anything that’s flying

Tuesday 24 June 2009. It’s a lazy sunny afternoon.

But its also another day of learning at the Sanctuary at Roche Caiman, the only urban wetland reserve in Seychelles. In 2002, the Government of Seychelles handed over the management of the sanctuary to Nature Seychelles and the Wildlife Clubs of Seychelles.

The International School of Seychelles’ A level class is here for a science class. At the Sanctuary, you can learn and teach anything. Brenda Adnimignon, a Lecturer at the National Institute of Education explained it to me in this way when she brought out a class of trainee English teachers: Take a pond, imagine a teacher reading a story about a pond to her class. It’s all on paper. Then imagine her showing them pond life. The lesson comes alive. And when the children go back and write about it, they improve both their knowledge and English. (And they get an afternoon out of class).

science class

The Sanctuary has become very popular for this type of learning. And Terence, our Education Coordinator loves to host these classes. But, apart from learning, the students are also helping us assemble data on the Sanctuary, always useful for monitoring.

Oh. “Catch anything that’s flying” is the instruction the science students got from their teacher. Maybe if school had been this interesting….

Read more about the Sanctuary at Roche Caiman here