Tag Archives: critically endangered

What is the point of long-term monitoring in conservation?

Endemic, Enchanting, Endangered

Endemic, Enchanting, Endangered

In a recently published scientific study in the Journal of African Ornithology, the authors of the report, conservation scientists April Burt and Julie Gane collaborated in an analysis of the long-term monitoring of the Seychelles Magpie Robin (SMR) using data collected in the last eighteen years. Read More »

Seychelles Warbler downgraded from Critically Endangered to Near Threatened

Seychelles warbler (by Martijn Hammers)

Seychelles warbler (by Martijn Hammers)

Once you could barely hear the chirping of this songbird with its only 25 individuals left in a mangrove swamp on a small island in Seychelles, but now the singing is louder with a symphony that comprises over 3000 birds. The population of the Seychelles warbler (Acrocephalus sechellensis), which once had the dubious distinction of being one of the rarest birds in the world, is now 115 times what it was over three decades ago with a population spread over 5 islands. Intensive conservation efforts have ensured this endemic bird did not vanish completely. Read More »

La Digue children “friend” the Flycatcher

We were recently on La Digue to witness the launch of an after-school club called the “Friends of the Flycatcher.” Presently 20-member strong, the club has been formed to involve children in activities that will help conserve the Critically Endangered Seychelles Paradise Flycatcher and its habitat.

The flycatcher is our friend

The club has been set up as part of an advocacy and education project being implemented by Nature Seychelles and the Seychelles National Parks Authority (SNPA) under the BirdLife International (Nature Seychelles is BirdLife partner) Preventing Extinctions Programme. The work is being supported by Viking Optical of the UK who are Species Champion.

The flycatcher, known as Vev in Creole, is regarded as an icon of La Digue by the local people. This project is enhancing its protection by engaging local people.  The club will be based at La Digue School and will be run by Josiana of the SNPA as well as three teachers from the school.

At the launch club members were kitted with colourful t-shirts that announce they’ve “friended” the flycatcher and presented with an educational booklet titled Vital Vev – Environmental Activities to Help Protect the Seychelles Paradise Flycatcher.

What bird am I? these members are captivated by the booklet

The booklet is full of fun activities that will help club members understand the Vev and other Seychelles wildlife. It includes information and games appropriate for children aged five to fifteen, which will help the children to make the connection between species, their habitats, food and the environment in general.

The headteacher of La Digue School Mr. Michel Madeleine encouraged the members of the club to reach out to their friends and families to influence a wider involvement in the Vev’s protection.

Talking about the flycatcher? these boys cycle home after the launch

In the fight against extinction the Friends of the Flycatcher are in good company because Angry Birds are also rooting for the Vev.

The fearless birds of Seychelles

11 year old Iona, whom we know from this post was in La Digue recently and visited the Veuve Reserve. La Digue happens to be the stronghold of the critically endangered Seychelles Paradise Flycatcher, and the Reserve, created to protect this bird is one of the places where you can see the birds easily. When she got there, Iona was told that a new nest of the flycatcher had just been spotted. She went to have  a look and there she was able to observe a pair of flycatchers tending the nest. Here is her account of the experience.

I sailed to La Digue last week with dad, the boys and Liz who works with dad. We walked to La Digue nature reserve where Seychelles paradise fly catchers live. Josianna showed us a new nest which was next to the road and there was a female paradise fly catcher in the nest on an egg.

Female paradise fly catcher on the nest (Iona Varley)

I had wait a bit for the male to come on to the nest. The males as you can see are black all over apart from the beak which is light blue and around the eyes is light blue (above) . The male has a really long tail too (below).

The males are black all over apart from the beak and around the eyes

The female has chestnut brown wings and tail with black edges, black head and beak. the female also has a white tummy and neck. The young looks like the female. The wingspan is 23cm. The nest is made of palm spider web, sticks, feathers, leaves and moss.  November – March is supposed to be the time these birds breed the most, but I think they breed almost all year round. Paradise Fly Catchers are fearless and will go for any dare, because they know people on La Digue are no threat to them. Seychelles people call Seychelles Paradise Fly Catchers vevs and there motto is ” keep our vev flying!” While I was standing on the side of the road trying to take pics of the female on the nest I was surprised that (even though there where so many tourists on bikes) no one came to see what I was taking

Seychelles – a great place to be a turtle!

while she lays, data are collected (Herve Chelle)

Turtle program on Cousin started in 1972 (Herve Chelle)

Last week I was on Cousin Island Special Reserve, with a group of visitors on a guided tour of the island. On the beach we watched as a hawksbill turtle made its short journey back to the sea from laying her eggs. Laborious on land, but effortless in the sea, the hawksbill turtle lays more than 100 eggs into a small pit dug in the sand.

The Seychelles in general and Cousin Island in particular is a great place to be a turtle. Every year around this time, hundreds of female hawksbill turtles will arrive on one of our beaches to nest. The archipelago provides key nesting and feeding areas for the critically endangered hawksbill and is home to the largest remaining population in the Western Indian Ocean. This population, sea turtle experts have said recently, is among the twelve healthiest sea turtle populations globally.

A report produced by IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Marine Turtle Specialist Group (MTSG) has revealed the most threatened and most healthiest of all sea turtles (there are 7 species) populations globally. It is the first comprehensive status assessment of all sea turtles. See this story here.

It shows that the hawksbill turtles populations in the Southwestern Indian Ocean (Seychelles, British and French Overseas Territories) and in Southeast Indian Ocean and Southwest Pacific Ocean (Australia) are the healthiest. But Hawksbill are threatened in the East Pacific Ocean, East Atlantic Ocean, Northeastern Indian Ocean, and West Pacific Ocean.

The report says that the most significant threats to sea turtles are fisheries bycatch, accidental catches of sea turtles by fishermen targeting other species, and the direct harvest of turtles or their eggs for food or turtle shell for commercial use. The healthiest populations are large and currently facing relatively low threats.

Hawksbill turtles were heavily exploited for many years in Seychelles, mainly for their shell. In 1994 a law that granted them complete protection was passed and harvesting was completely banned, although occasional poaching still occurs.

Turtle conservation is carried out on many islands. One of conservation’s success stories for the hawksbill turtle has been registered on Cousin Island, where a long-term monitoring programme started in 1972 is firmly established.

The adventure begins…

the hatchlings head to sea

the hatchlings head to sea (Alison Giacomelli)

look at this guy move

look at this baby move ! (Alison Giacomelli)

After a hard days work our 2 volunteers Carrie and Alison saw these hawksbill hatchlings making their way down to the sea just after 6pm. They had probably been waiting for the sun to go down before emerging when it was a bit cooler. They a ll made their way down to the sea in a big group and with the help of the volunteers and Science Officer Mary they managed to avoid the ghost crabs who were waiting on the beach in search of a tasty meal. The hatchlings swim out to sea where they are carried off by ocean currents. The first few years of their life are known as ‘The Lost Years’ as we don’t know exactly where they go, although it is believed that they spend some time drifting on rafts of algae, feeding and growing. When they are a bit older they start coming back to inshore areas to feed. However it’s not until they reach 35-40 years that they begin breeding and we’ll see the females coming back to the beaches of Cousin. Amazingly, females find their way back to the same beach where they hatched to lay their eggs.


UK’s Viking Optical champions rare bird

Male (black) and Female Seychelles paradise flycatcher (Jeff Watson)

Male (black) and female Seychelles paradise flycatcher (Jeff Watson)

The Seychelles paradise flycatcher (Terpsiphone corvina, Vev in Creole) is the only Critically Endangered bird of the Seychelles due to its tiny population and extremely small range. But conservation action has resulted in the steady increase in its population in recent years and its range has been enlarged after a successful translocation to Denis Island from its home in La Digue.

Now, Viking Optical, a leading UK importer and distributor of high quality optical equipment have become “Species Champion” for the Vev to provide support to this work. viking

Species champions are a growing community of active conservationists who generously support BirdLife (Nature Seychelles is BirdLife in Seychelles) by providing vital funding and publicity that enables work to be undertaken to prevent the extinction of the world’s most threatened birds. Apart from contributing financial support to conservation efforts, they draw attention to the plight of the species they champion.
Viking Optical are also supporting an advocacy and education project to help protect the species in its stronghold on La Digue.

During a visit to the Seychelles recently, Viking donated high-powered binoculars for the bird’s monitoring. The binoculars were handed over to Nature Seychelles at our headquarters by company’s Managing Director Richard Bonnet.

Viking have also began a publicity and branding campaign to attract further financial support. Tim Strivens, a representative of the company, explained that one of the most important things they are doing as species champion is to get the message out about the work being done to save these birds by  branding products they sell with the paradise flycatcher.

We are very pleased to have Viking as species champion.

To support Viking in its fundraising effort please go to this link http://www.justgiving.com/Seychelles-Paradise-flycatcher

The turtles are back

It’s hawksbill turtle nesting season once again here on Cousin…

Female turtle coming in to nest. (Peter Chadwick)

Female turtle coming in to nest. (Peter Chadwick)

And so its tagging…

Tags are checked or applied on flippers for monitoring. (Peter Chadwick)

Tags are checked or applied on flippers for monitoring. (Peter Chadwick)

…and measuring time.

data such as size of turtle is collected (Peter Chadwick)

data such as size of turtle is collected (Peter Chadwick)

Cousin has one of the longest hawksbill turtle monitoring programme on the western Indian Ocean.  Tags applied to the turtles’ front flippers are used to identify individuals and to provide an estimate of the size of the nesting population. Other information such as the size of the turtle and tracks are also noted and the location of any nests are marked and recorded. Turtle nesting season ends in February.

Third flycatcher born! (food size issues and a Bird song remix)

In our post on June 26, we shared the exciting news that efforts to establish a Seychelles Paradise Flycatcher population on Denis Island had borne fruit with the hatching of two chicks. No chick had fledged successfully outside La Digue Island, Seychelles for over 60 years. We also told you how this news had created considerable excitement as the Seychelles Paradise Flycatcher is listed as Critically Endangered and this effort is geared towards improving that status. We have now heard that a third flycatcher nestling hatched. Rachel Bristol who is working on the flycatcher project tells us about this happy event and how, quite hilariously, the magpie robins and a sunbird are singing the flycatcher tune!

On Friday the 24th July a flycatcher nestling hatched and its over-enthusiastic father was trying (and failing miserably) to feed it huge green grasshoppers bigger in size than the tiny newly hatched chick. Luckily the female seemed to have the prey size a bit better sorted! The father is a young male and this is his first chick which may explain his food size issues.

It looks like the 2 flycatcher fledglings we had earlier are females which is good news as we introduced more males than females to Denis so this will even up the sex ratio. They are both still at home with their parents though feeding themselves now, and they have changed colour from brown (they are brown fluffy balls when they fledge) to the same colour as a female flycatcher. All juvenile flycatchers plumage is the same colour as adult female flycatchers- males change to male plumage from about 10 months old.

Female Vev

The female who has a small chick in a nest at the moment, with nesting material in her bill. Photo by Catherina Onezia

There is a solitary male Seychelles sunbird on Denis. It is ringed so we know who he is and where he came from. He came from Bird Island and is one of the sunbirds introduced to Bird Island from Mahe in 2006. He is very noisy and very active and if he wasn’t ringed I would swear there were about 4 sunbirds on the island as he moves over a large area and is very visible. He is also very annoying as he has started imitating flycatchers. He is so good that he not only tricks me and Mervin our flycatcher research assistant on Denis, he also tricks the flycatchers themselves who often chase him initially thinking he is a flycatcher intruding on their territory.

Seychelles sunbird on Denis

The sunbird that’s singing the flycatcher tune on Denis. Photo by Rachel Bristol

I think the sunbird has started this imitation as he is the only Sunbird on the island so has no Sunbirds to sing to/with as on La Digue sunbirds and flycatchers co-habit and I have never ever heard a sunbird imitate a flycatcher.

The Magpie robins on Denis also incorporate quite a lot of Flycatcher song into their song, however they always give themselves away by singing some very obviously magpie robin song after a few notes. The robins were initially noted doing this within about 3 months of the flycatchers being introduced to Denis so they learn fast.

So there you have it, there is indeed now great hopes for establishing a second population for the Seychelles Paradise Flycatcher.

On the way to saving the Flycatcher

If you are a bird lover, you have probably heard the exciting news that Seychelles Paradise flycatchers have fledged successfully on Denis Island, Seychelles. If you haven’t and are wondering what this is all about, here’s the story.

The Seychelles Paradise-Flycatcher – known as the Vev here – is a Critically Endangered (CE) bird only known to be found breeding on one of the islands – La Digue.

To be listed as CE means that the birds face an extremely high risk of extinction in the immediate future. So to improve the flycatchers’ chances, 23 birds were translocated last year from La Digue to Denis, where it was hoped they would thrive and improve the status of this species. Upon release on Denis, it was reported that “they flew straight up onto tree branches, preened, then moved off and began to feed”. Some of the birds also appeared to have paired up almost immediately. Results of the pairing up bore fruit in April this year when two nests and egg laying was reported. Happily, we can now say we have “typical normal and healthy flycatcher chicks” on Denis.

rehydration and release

Photos: Re-hydration and release of the Vev on Denis

Female released

Female just released on Denis

“We are well on the way to saving the Flycatcher”, says the species guardian and  Nature Seychelles CEO, Nirmal Shah. What does this mean in terms of conservation results? “Well in the next two years or so I believe we would have no Critically Endangered (CE) birds left in Seychelles- a huge success considering that once upon a time Seychelles had more CE bird species than any country in Africa except Madagascar. This proves that conservation works. We can make it happen”.

You can read more about the trans- location and preparatory work that ended in this success at our website here. Another story by Birdlife can be found here

The translocation was funded by Darwin Initiative and led by the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE) and Nature Seychelles. Partners and collaborators include Denis Island Development  Limited, the La Digue Development Board, the  Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).

Edited to add a link to a previous Reuters report on the translocation:

Reuters.com – Saving the Seychelles’ emblem. One of the world’s rarest birds, the paradise flycatcher, was once a common site in gardens on the island of the Seychelles. Around 250 species of the birds exist today and building work on the islands is threatening their habitat. Jasleen Sethi for Reuters television has this report from La Digue, an island in the Seychelles archipelago.