Tag Archives: Seychelles

Tropicbird and chick – #inacousin minute

Here is the first of our videos that will give you a peek at the goings on at the Cousin Island Special Reserve. In this video, it takes some tricks for this tropicbird to get to the well hidden chick. Sometimes all it takes is a little limbo limbo limbo…

Video courtesy of www.liammartinfilm.com

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Powering conservation on Cousin Island, Seychelles: Please support our Indiegogo campaign

Nature Seychelles and ClimateCaring have just launched a fundraising campaign on Indiegogo to raise much needed funds for solar installation on Cousin Island Special Reserve, Seychelles. Read More »

#islands2014 Cousin Island: A conservation Success Story

Cousin Island arial shot for who is nature seyshells-001

Aerial view of Cousin Island Specia Reserve

Cousin Island Special Reserve in Seychelles managed by Nature Seychelles  is “one of the world’s great conservation success stories.” It is no ordinary island. Read More »

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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Reef Rescuers Humphead Parrotfish Encounter

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Here is nice little video from the reef rescuers on Praslin. The reef rescuers say “During our coral nursery monitoring visits, we often encounter solitary or small groups of Humphead Parrotfish, Bolbometopon muricatum. These peaceful giants come for a free meal when we clean the nurseries from algae and barnacles. We feel fortunate to share our diving time with such charismatic megafauna.

The Humphead Parrotfish is the largest species of parrotfish in the world, with record size of up to 1.5 m long, weight over 50 kg and maximum lifespan of at least 40 years. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, classifies the Humphead Parrotfish as threatened due to overfishing.”

Enjoy.

And here is an article about the project from Deutche Welle: Nursing Indian Ocean coral reefs back to life

New Research shows no link between mercury exposure and autism

fishing is an important industry and a primary source of nutrition

Fishing is an important industry and a primary source of nutrition

The potential impact of exposure to low levels of mercury on the developing brain — specifically by women consuming fish during pregnancy — has long been the source of concern and some have argued that the chemical may be responsible for behavioral disorders such as autism. Read More »

The Orchid and the Hotel

Image source: http://angraecums.blogspot.com/2013/02/oeoniella-polystachys.html

The Orchid

Recent plans for a proposed resort development at Police Bay ( see: http://goo.gl/hVe5N  and    http://goo.gl/tM5Sw) has attracted negative public comments. The findings of the “Assessment of Areas of High Biodiversity for Informed Decision Making in Future Land Use Planning and Management” a government of Seychelles project financed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) has revealed that areas above the coastal strip of Police Bay, especially sites above 100 metres deserve to be protected. An orchid occurring in the Western Indian Ocean islands, Oeoniella polystachy (and probably not O. Aphrodite as was reported)  has been found there in an area known as Mont Corail. This orchid has been known from Seychelles but is uncommon.  It can be cultivated quite easily (and indeed has been all over the world) and Nirmal Shah of Nature Seychelles has  recommended that its propagation forms part of a conservation plan for the area.. Information on the two species of these orchids can be found below courtesy of the Mauritius Herbarium via MWF.

Oeoniella aphrodite (Balf. & S. Moore) Schltr.

Distribution: Rodrigues (Mauritius)

Flowering Period: Late October to mid-November

This is the most endangered of the remaining Rodriguean orchids. Small populations are found on rock faces and, occasionally as an epiphyte, at Grande Montagne, Mt. Cimetière and on Cascade Pigeon. Fruiting success is extremely low, as is recruitment from seed. A specimen of this taxon is recorded having grown at Conservatoire Botanic de Brest, France, but it seems no more; another formerly grew at the Trinity College Botanic Gardens, Dublin, Ireland.

Oeoniella polystachys (Thouars) Schltr.

Distribution: Mauritius, La Réunion, Madagascar, Comoros and Seychelles

Flowering period: Late July to late November (rarely April)

This species was considered synonymous with Oeoniella aphrodite, but its inflorescence and flower structure are different. Oeoniella polystachys is endemic to the Western Indian Ocean islands, bearing white flowers of about 2-3 cm across, blooming for about a month. It is a common species on Madagascar, occurring mostly in the east coast. In Reunion is found on the northern dry forests, where it is populations are declining.  In Mauritius, the best population is found on Ile aux Aigrettes, another large population is found at Bras D’Eau. Scatter plants exist in  other areas.

Image source: http://angraecums.blogspot.com/2013/02/oeoniella-polystachys.html

Special Turtle lays eggs – with a little help from her friends

An exhausting but successful Hawksbill turtle nesting season on Cousin Island Special Reserve was topped by the appearance of an extraordinary turtle nicknamed “Stumpy” by island residents.

The Hawksbill turtle arrived on the island devoid of her right rear flipper and part of her carapace. But in spite of her missing flipper she made several attempts at nesting, finally succeeding with the help of the turtle team to lay not one, but two nests!

Turtles use their flippers to swim in the ocean where they spend most of their time. They also use them on land.  With the front ones they crawl out of the sea and drag themselves across the beach to nesting sites, and once there, digging what is called a body pit. With the hind flippers, they excavate the pits within which eggs are laid.

She was missing her right rear flipper and part of her carapace

She was missing her right rear flipper and part of her carapace

“Her right rear flipper was missing and a chunk was taken out of her carapace, but this did not stop her natural instinct to lay,” says Kat one of  Cousin’s Turtle Team Volunteers.

“Throughout the season we encountered tagged turtles, on average, 3 times. However she attempted to lay 10 times,” she continues, describing the persistence of the turtle.

 “At first we thought she would not be able to complete the laying process because although the damaged flipper went through the motion of digging an egg chamber, no sand was shifted. But with help from us, scooping sand out of the way, she managed to dig an egg chamber and laid her two nests.”

But with help she laid two nests

Stumpy’s flipper and the carapace is suspected to have been chomped off by a shark.

This is not the first time that the turtle has been spotted on the island. Female turtles instinctively return to the island where they were born to nest as adults and two years ago she was spotted.

“I remember helping Stumpy to nest,” says Alec another volunteer who was on the island at the time, “Sand to the face but worth it!”

Despite a late start, this season Cousin Island experienced the highest number of nesting female hawksbill turtles in recent years.

The high numbers are obviously good news for the turtle population nesting on Cousin Island, which is one of the world’s longest running hawksbill monitoring programmes, but meant a very exhausting few months for the volunteers and wardens of Cousin Island.

“But it has been incredibly interesting for me seeing the whole lifecycle happen on Cousin Island,” says Kat. “From Sighting turtles mating in the waters around Cousin and watching females emerge to lay eggs on the island to hatchlings pouring out of their nest in their hundreds and then snorkelling and seeing juvenile turtles feeding around the island.”

 “It really brings home how important this small island in the Seychelles is for ensuring the continuation of this ancient species. I can only hope in the future there are more and more bumper years like this and the same turtles and their offspring keep returning,” she says.

The Seychelles Terrapin never existed

Seychelles black mud terrapin (Pelusios subniger parietalis)

Seychelles black mud terrapin (Pelusios subniger parietalis)

By Nirmal Shah

The torti soupap or terrapin (also known as mud turtle) is well known in Seychelles. Actually, biologists said that there were 3 species in Seychelles. One became extinct – the Seychelles terrapin Pelusios seychellensis is  known from only 3 specimens collected in the 19th century and  kept at the Natural History Museum in Vienna and the Zoological Museum in Hamburg. Despite recent searches for this species no further specimens have been found. “Consequently, it was assumed the species had been exterminated”, says Professor Uwe Fritz, director of the Museum of Zoology at the Senckenberg Natural History Collections in Dresden.

In a study published in the open source  journal PLOS ONE, Heiko Stukas, Richard Gemel and Fritz  have demonstrated that actually the species was never an endemic.  Genetic analysis of the original specimen from the museum in Vienna proves that the terrapin was another species, Pelusios castaneus, widespread in West Africa.

The species Pelusios seychellensis has therefore never existed.  Taxonomists had always been puzzled that the supposed Seychelles species looked so similar to the West African mud turtles.

Last year, another team led by Fritz published a study that showed that another terrapin species, Pelusios subniger, was not endemic to the Seychelles but had been introduced by man.  So now 2 species of terrapins are off the list of Seychelles endemic animals.

A couple of biologists have been very keen in labelling terrapin and tortoise species as endemic. The French taxonomist Roger Bour resurrected Pelusios seychellles as an endemic species in 1983. In addition, Bour renamed the Seychelles population of Pelusios castanoides and Pelusios subniger as the new Seychelles subspecies Pelusios subniger intergularis and Pelusios subniger parietalis. However , based on the genetic evidence we now know that at least 2 species are not endemics, with the third probably the same as well.

The museum specimens of Pelusios seychelles are now believed to have been mislabelled. As for the other species they could have introduced from the African mainland as food sources.  Perhaps traders or slavers brought them. Torti soupap was, in fact, eaten by Seychellois in the past.

Conservation programmes for these terrapins in the Seychelles will now have to be revised, and scarce conservation funding  used for species that are clearly native and are in danger.  I think that since the terrapins are protected by specific legislation even this needs to be reviewed.
Journal Source, PLOS ONE: http://goo.gl/SDhlq

Life as a Coral Nanny

The project seeks to restore damaged coral reefs

Corals in the Seychelles and the region were destroyed by bleaching caused by warming oceans. The most severe bleaching occurred in 1998. Many reefs around Cousin Island Special Reserve  simply collapsed into rubble which became covered by algae. Years later they show little sign of natural recovery. In 2010, Nature Seychelles launched the Reef Rescuers project. Financially supported by the United States Agency for International Development – USAID, the project is  the first ever large-scale active reef restoration project in the region (See Building Coral Reefs of the Future on our website). Using a method called “reef gardening” healthy corals from donor sites are raised in underwater nurseries to required size and then ‘planted’ in degraded sites. A team of 6-7 divers perform daily underwater tasks to do this. They include volunteer scientific divers such as  Joseph Marlow. Below is his account of life as a reef rescuer.   

For any young marine biologist, volunteer work is a fundamental component of the first rung of our career ladder. We all do it, some of us monitor turtle nesting sites, some of us tag whale sharks, me? I am a coral nanny and my particular choice of volunteer opportunity allows me to work every day on the world’s biggest and most ambitious coral nursery project.

Underwater nursery construction

I have worked on a few volunteer projects in my time and count myself as an experienced diver, but this project offered the chance to experience something entirely new; both in terms of marine science and diving. With so much of world’s reefs in a degraded state and the decline looking set to continue, I was curious about the potential for projects such as these to reverse the decline. The diving here is also a fairly novel experience; our normal dive kit is supplemented by a range of tools normally found on a building site and it’s not unusual to see a diver striding across the sand with a sledgehammer across their shoulder.

Life as a coral nanny isn’t easy; we dive five days a week, work starts early in the morning and the work is hard. Just like their human counterparts, corals left in a nursery unattended for too long tend to create havoc and the first dive of the day is often spent repairing whatever has been broken in the night. Our second dive of the day could entail anything from nursery coral health monitoring, nursery construction to the exciting work of actually transplanting our mature corals to their new home, the degraded site we hope to transform into a healthy reef.

By mid-afternoon, our work is done, our tanks are empty and we return to our base on Praslin Island exhausted. At base we quickly store away our kit, enter any data we need to into the project computer and then the rest of day is ours. What do you do with a free afternoon in the Seychelles? Anything you want; hang out on the beach a few strides away from the base, head into town to catch a film at the cinema or just relax at base with a beer and a book. However, the real fun starts on the weekend; Praslin Island is a fantastic island to explore and with staggeringly beautiful beaches, a UNESCO world heritage site and world class dives sites on your doorstep, you’ll never run out of things to do.

Related news: Help in deep waters