Tag Archives: Nature Seychelles

All in a day’s work

Watch this video of the Reef Rescuers ( Nature Seychelles’ Coral Restoration project on Praslin Island) as they perfom their daily underwater tasks. It’s all in a days work!

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Coral transplantation has began!

While everyone was preparing for the holidays late last year (2012), Nature Seychelles’ Reef Rescuer project entered an exciting stage. After nearly two years of preparation, of growing and nurturing of corals in nurseries, the third stage of the reef restoration project is here – planting on degraded reef sites. Jim Scarborough, a Scientific Diver with the project explained.

Here at Reef Rescuer HQ, we have moved into one of the busiest and most important parts of our project. We finally get to start waving goodbye to our corals after many months of careful nurturing and care. That’s right folks, the pilot transplantation has begun!

What this entails is a careful site analysis, of both control and transplantation sites, to give us a good idea of the benthic cover, fish and invertebrate populations. Joe M.has been working hard crunching the numbers on this, and that allowed us to know what was there before we start transplanting the corals from our nurseries to the degraded site selected on the north-east side of Cousin Island.

Kevin and Jim attaching ropes of Pocillopora

Kevin and Jim attaching ropes of Pocillopora

Fuelled by heavy metal, samosas, sunscreen and coffee, we set off to move corals. 10 metre ropes of coral colonies, Pocillopora eydouxi and Acropora cytherea, are cut from the main nurseries and swum to the transplantation site by two divers, helped by a sympathetic current. Once we arrive the ropes were cut into sections for attachment. For this pilot we are trying to see the effectiveness of attachment methods, so the ropes are cut into 5 metre and 1 metre pieces as well as individual corals. These are then nailed into the bare carbonate substrate by the team using a variety of different nails, again to see which ones are the best for the job. The winner was a 2 inches concrete nail and 20cm ropes with ‘prussik’ knot were also used to stretch the 1m or 5m ropes of nursery-grown colonies and attach them as close as possible to the substrate.

Pocillopora eydouxi successfully attached!

Pocillopora eydouxi successfully attached!

Our pilot transplantation site is starting to look like a fully fledged reef now, and even has its own little community of butterfly and damsel fish. This is a great start and hopefully only a small taste of things to come!

On top of this fantastic accomplishment, we were also visited by a French film crew who were shooting a documentary about small tropical islands. After a briefing about what we do by David, they were shown most of the coral growing process, from collection and fragmentation to transplantation. It looked like they had a great time, and yours truly managed to sneak into every piece of footage they shot! Watch this space folks; I feel a French BAFTA is on the horizon!

Plenty is going on, even more still to be done and everything going well. Just the way I like it!

Jim Scarborough, Scientific Diver (September-December 2012)

59 Seychelles warblers from Cousin find a new home on Fregate

On 7 and 14 December, 59 Seychelles Warblers (Timerl dezil, Acrocephalus sechellensis) were transferred from Cousin Island Special Reserve to Fregate Island Private thanks to a Nature Seychelles-led initiative. The transfer was carried out to start a new breeding population on Fregate Island, making it the fifth island in Seychelles to hold this charming little bird with a story that reads like a fairy tale. The  operation involved a team from Nature Seychelles, the Seychelles Warbler Research Group,  and Fregate Island and the activity was funded by Disney Conservation Fund project  to Nature Seychelles. Birds were transferred using what is called the “hard release” method;  they were captured in the morning, transferred by Helicopter Seychelles and were released on Fregate by afternoon of the same day.  Read more about the translocation on our website: The most amazing conservation success story in Seychelles

David Wright was part of the translocation team.  Here he tells us what it was like to be part of this exciting conservation endeavour.

I’m a PhD student from UEA, in the UK, studying conservation genetics of the warbler. Am part of the Seychelles Warbler Research Group – a collaboration between the universities of East Anglia and Sheffield in the UK and University of Groningen in the Netherlands and working with Nature Seychelles for a number of years. The translocation of these special little birds to Frégate Island has been a fantastic opportunity for me to get involved directly in conservation at every stage of the process. It has enabled me to fulfil a lifelong ambition working in conservation.

My role has involved working both on Cousin, monitoring the population before the translocation and catching the birds to be moved, and on Frégate during and after their release. Working on a small tropical island is wonderful but often difficult; hiking up and down hills, scrambling over glacis and through mangroves in the tropical heat, carrying 45 mist nets and poles for catching birds around the island, with the ever hungry mosquitoes trying their best to drain you of blood…

Definitely not the ‘tropical holiday’ my friends back home thought it was! However, it’s not all hard work, and sitting on the beach watching the sunset with a cool drink in your hand is worth a million mosquito bites. The Seychelles is a beautiful place to work, particularly nature reserves like Cousin which offer such amazing wildlife experiences that it can be difficult to remember you have a job to do!

One of the main highlights of the translocation for me was the helicopter transfers to Frégate. What an amazing place to take your first ever helicopter flight! Seeing the coral reefs, the islands of Praslin, La Digue, Felicité and Marianne looming up from the turquoise blue ocean, Frégate island hazy in the distance awaiting the arrival of its new inhabitants – it’s a view I won’t forget in a hurry!

Dave releasing a warbler on Fregate

Dave releasing a warbler on Fregate courtesy of Paul Nixon

Releasing the birds during a translocation is perhaps one of the most fulfilling parts of the process and being directly involved in that was truly an honour. All the months of planning and hard work were worth seeing each and every warbler shoot out from its transportation box and into its new forest home.

From my experience during the translocation, I’d say the key ingredient is having a good, knowledgeable team. It’s critical you can work together and rely on each other, focussing your skills and effort to achieve your objectives. Being part of this fantastic translocation team is something I am really proud of and will look back on in years to come. Everyone brings their unique attributes and skills to the group and you really feel a part of something special. Overall, the translocation has been a phenomenal experience; the excitement, fun, anxiety, stress, hard work, sense of fulfilment and achievement – it’s been an emotional rollercoaster and an opportunity of a lifetime to be involved in something positive for conservation.

The translocation team by Dave Wright

The translocation team on Cousin by Dave Wright

Bird ringing on Cousin

Ringing is delicate work and ringers need training

Ringing is delicate work and ringers need training (Dieter Oschadleus)

From 18-23 September 2011 Dieter Oschadleus from SAFRING (South African Bird Ringing Unit) was on Cousin Island Special Reserve conducting training on ringing birds for the island’s wardens. Ringing and releasing birds is delicate work and ringers need skill and experience.The training was mostly on mist-netting of seabirds and land birds, a method used in bird ringing. A total of 478 birds were caught and ringed including recaptures. Riaz Aumeeruddy, Nature Seychelles Science and Conservation Coordinator was at the training and we took the opportunity to ask him a few questions. Following are his answers.

Why do we ring birds?

There are different reasons for ringing birds. One is to be able to identify birds individually in a population, usually using a combination of different coloured rings. This is what is done on Cousin with the endemic Seychelles magpie robin and the Seychelles warbler, where each bird is colour ringed. Usually most ringing programs involve only putting a metal ring with a unique ID on one of the legs of a bird. This will allow, if the bird is recaptured, to get information on its movement (on the island itself or inter-island), on its longevity (eg. a Seychelles fody ringed in 2002 on Cousin was recaptured during the training course, showing the the bird lives at least 9 years, information on the longevity of the Seychelles fody has never been published before) and social associations. Bird ringing can help answer a number of questions relating to causes and factors contributing to population movement, dynamics and behaviour.

Which types of birds do we ring?

On Cousin, we systematically ring two species of land-birds: the magpie robins which are ringed by the Cousin staff, and the Seychelles warblers that are ringed by the scientists from the warbler research group. Ideally all the birds of these two species are ringed, to know the exact population, and the territories in which they live on the island. Other landbirds are ringed for specific projects; the Seychelles fody was ringed on Cousin by a student who was doing her PhD on that species. Some species of seabirds are also ringed on Cousin, for example the White-tailed tropicbird and the Lesser Noddy are ringed during study of their breeding success (parents and chicks are ringed when they are on the nest).

A ringed Seychelles warbler (L, Cas Eikenaar) and magpie robin (R, Glenn Jackaway)

A ringed Seychelles warbler (L, Cas Eikenaar) and magpie robin (R, Glenn Jackaway)

What do the different colors mean?

Colour rings are used in a unique combination (2-3 rings) which helps identify each bird. For the  magpie robin, 1 colour ring is attached to the right leg to identify the island (eg. Cousin uses a Red ring) so if a bird flies from one island to the other, we can know from which island it is from, and 2 colour rings are attached to the left leg to identify the bird. With this system, the whole genealogy of a bird can be determined. For the warblers, 1 colour ring is used to identify the year the bird is ringed, and 2 colour rings for identifying the bird.

What was the outcome of the exercise

Four wardens, the science officer and myself attended the training course. All the participants received certificates. We need to thank Dieter Oschadleus from SAFRING for conducting the training, and the warbler team (Martijn Hammers, David Wright and Sjouke Ann Kingma) for their assistance during the course.

The Lesser noddy was the most ringed species

The Lesser noddy was the most ringed species (Dieter Oschadleus)

Thanks Riaz.

Dieter has also reported on this ringing exercise here and has provided a table of the species and numbers ringed.

A natural solution to society’s problems

Children from the President's village at the Heritage Garden

Children from the President's village at the Heritage Garden

Children love being outdoors. Playing is great and is a chance to explore outside of the boundaries of the home. Not only is it fun for the kids, it’s good for them too. Scientists have discovered that children function better cognitively and emotionally in ‘green environments’, that is places with nature vegetation, than those without.  No wonder that a study of urban children discovered that 96% of them illustrated outdoor places when asked to make a map or drawing of all their favourite place.

Conversely, a lack of routine contact with nature can be detrimental to children’s health and may result in stunted academic and developmental growth. This condition has been termed Nature Deficit Disorder by author Richard Louv in his book Last Child in the Woods. Louv says we have entered a new era of city- centred life that restricts outdoor play, in conjunction with a plugged-in culture that draws kids indoors. But, Louv argues that, the agrarian, nature-oriented existence hard-wired into human brains isn’t quite ready for the overstimulating environment we’ve carved out for ourselves. Some children adapt, but those who don’t develop symptoms including attention problems, obesity, anxiety, and depression.

Nature Seychelles’ Sanctuary at Roche Caiman is a great local green space which we use to tackle this problem head-on. Many children have visited and enjoyed the benefits of being outdoors. The most recent was a group of twenty-five children from the Presidents Village who were brought by local company Applebys Corporate Service Limited to enjoy a taste nature last weekend.

The children were taken on a tour of the nature reserve by Martin Varley, Community and Stakeholder Action Co-ordinator, where they had chance to watch wildlife at first hand and also take part in some fun games with strong environmental messages. They were also taken round the adjacent Heritage Garden which showcases a diverse range of traditionally grown Seychelles fruit, vegetables and medicinal herbs.

The experience on the reserve formed the basis of the second part of the visit which was led by Green Health Co-ordinator Robin Hanson, who used the animals on the reserve as a platform for a special natural exercise class for the children, another form of recreation with proven health and wellbeing benefits. The weather stayed kind and at the end of the morning the children were buzzing with excitement about their visit.

“We all know how good it is to be outside,” said Nature Seychelles CEO Nirmal Shah, “Kids are healthier and happier and with a good dose of exercise they can be stronger too. It’s great to be able to work with a local company like Appleby’s to provide a break for these kids from the President’s Village and show then what we have here at Roche Caiman. Everyone is a winner”.

We may not be able to prevent our children from suffering the impacts of our changing society, but it’s good to know that the remedy is close at hand.

This post first appeared in the Today in Seychelles newspaper.

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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A full story on the launch is on our website.

Nature Explorers brings benefits to Children

When Robin Hanson is teaching the Nature Explorers class at Nature Seychelles it sounds exactly like what it is – children having fun. Who wouldn’t have fun jumping like a frog, standing like a tree, and balancing like a heron? Or walking on a fallen tree and listening to the sounds of nature? But apart from having fun the children are exploring their bodies and their minds while cultivating an empathy for nature.

Nature Explorers is part of the Nature Seychelles’ Green Health programme, which is combining yoga and fitness in natural surroundings with activities that help the environment.  Robin, a yoga teacher and conservationist started the programme mid-last year. And now he has began running a dynamic programme for children combining yoga, general fitness and self-discovery.

Classes increase flexibility, strength, discipline, confidence, general positivity and calmness. They encourage children to be ready to learn, create, and develop. “The children are of course having fun. But the core is education,” says Robin. “Children are generally more willing to learn. Adults you have to persuade to do handstands – children have to be persuaded to do the warm up first,” he quips.

A typical class allows for exploration and using one’s imagination. Everything is exercised – from eyes to arms and legs. And classes are non-competitive: every child works at the level they find themselves in. This builds self-esteem and confidence.

the props...

the props...

The setting of Nature Explorers classes within the Sanctuary at Roche Caiman helps in the discovery of nature and various natural materials lend themselves as ready tools to be used for classes. Robin has fashioned pieces of wood as balance beams, stepping stones, toad tokens, basically anything he and mainly the children can imagine to use them for to exercise and have fun. Learning the animal poses, where they live, how they move, how they live together also educates children about nature. Learning the other nature poses such as mountain increases awareness and appreciation of the wonderful healing world around us.

Nature Seychelles will soon be expanding this programme to include children from vulnerable environments.

Check out Robin’s  blog here: http://greenhealthseychelles.wordpress.com/

Photographing the elusive Syer

Well hello Mr. Owl

Well hello Owl

One of the things I like about working in conservation is taking pictures of wildlife. As challenging as it can be, it is an absolute delight to see the results when a good picture is taken. In Seychelles and on Cousin Island Special Reserve especially there are great opportunities for taking bird pictures. The birds make it easy on the Reserve because they are so unafraid of people and do not move away when approached. Cousin is predator free, so the birds have hardly anything to fear. We have in our database now hundreds of pictures taken by staff, volunteers and visitors. We have shared some of them and I love it when I get a good reaction to a picture.

But although its relatively easy to get pictures of the bird life, sometimes its near impossible to get pictures of some birds. The Seychelles Scops Owl (Syer, Otus insularis) comes to mind. This is a nocturnal bird restricted to forests at mid and high altitudes of Mahe, the main island of Seychelles. The population is fewer than 360 birds so it is still on the endangered list. It is a rarely seen bird and in fact it was not until 1999 that a nest was found. But a few people know its whereabouts and can help in locating it. Camille Hoareau is one of these people.

Last year we had French photographers Herve Chelle and Jean Phillipe Vantighem helping us add to our photographic database. JP and Herve work for the NGO Le Sternes, which provides photography expertise to protected areas on a voluntary basis. During their time on Mahe we asked them to help us get pictures of the Scops owl and the Seychelles sheath-tailed bat another elusive species. We called on Camille who lives up in the hills for his help. Using the Scops Owl call,  a double frog-like croak that resembles a saw – thus its Creole name meaning sawyer, Camille was able to attract a pair for Herve to take pictures of at dusk (see above). In between, we stood there awed for over an hour just watching them, feeling lucky.

Zwazo: celebrating the International Year of Biodiversity

The latest issue of Zwazo – Nature Seychelles bi-annual conservation magazine – commemorates 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity (IYB).

Zwazo" is Creole for Bird

Zwazo" is Creole for Bird

Zwazo’s feature articles  are written by people who are proposing solutions based on field research and who are experimenting with solutions on site. In a thought provoking article, “Can people be trusted with Biodiversity,” IUCN’s Regional Director Ali Kaka draws on experiences from eastern and southern Africa to show why there is a return to embracing communities in conservation for the benefit of biodiversity. Chris Feare’s “Exploitation and Conservation of Sooty Terns in Seychelles” demonstrates the usefulness of robust data for species management, while Rudy van der Elst of the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association discusses a programme that documents the diversity of fisheries and their resources in the region. Saving albatrosses from extinction by working with fishing industries and providing innovative and win-win solutions to seabird bycatch is the way to go, says Ross Wanless. Nirmal Shah remarks that sharks are worth far more to the economy alive than they are on a platter served up with chips. Christopher Kueffer brings us lessons learnt in the management of invasive alien species in Seychelles and Wayne Meyer talks about vegetation management on Cousin Island.

A free copy of Zwazo is downloadable via the Nature Seychelles website http://natureseychelles.org and at http://issuu.com/natureseychelles/docs/zwazo21iyb

Nature Watch: A whole series of stories on Seychelles wildlife..

Here is a heads up about some interesting radio programmes we have uploaded on the education pages on our website and which you and those younger ones in your life might find interesting. The radio programmes were broadcast on Radio Seychelles between 1986-1987 (!) and featured Nirmal Shah, Nature Seychelles CEO, explaining the wonders of the Seychelles natural world, from sea cucumbers to earthworms and to Bib Delos – the water striders. Have fun listening, many of the listeners back in those days certainly did.

They are here: http://education.natureseychelles.org/nature-watch-radio-programs/

Tell us what you think… is this something you would like to have on the blog?