Tag Archives: Seychelles

Scouts day out at the Sanctuary and Heritage Garden

On Friday 24 a group of scouts visited the wetland, Sanctuary at Roche Caiman, and Heritage Garden courtesy of the scout movement and as part of a scout camp for the August holidays.

Every school holiday, the  Seychelles Scouts Association prepares a special programme for children, which involves both scouts and children from the community. The programme is designed to get children off the streets during the school holidays to come together for five days of learning, fellowship and adventure. As part of their five-day activities they participated in Nature Seychelles programmes that use nature therapy on this Friday afternoon. 10 scouts, 4 leaders and 39 children who are not scouts participated. Robin (the green health coordinator) Martin, our community coordinator and Lucina (at the Heritage Garden) planned and carried out all the activities which involved working in the garden and sanctuary and green exercise.

Fun and games  in the outdoors are the basis for green exercise

Activities included stripping the backs off of Cassuarina poles to be used in the Sanctuary for the bird hide, and learning how to pot seedlings and turn over compost  in the garden. Robin even had some of the children moving frog tadpoles, which had made a home in holes dug up for plants, to the safety of the Sanctuary’s ponds. This had the children knee deep in mud and screeching in delight.

Mud is fun!

In the garden, they learnt the names and uses of all the plants. It was amazing to see how much they already knew about some of the local plants particularly spices like Cinnamon and Curry leaf and fruit trees like Soursop, Sugar apple, Star fruit and Golden apple.

Learning how to pot seedlings

Katherine, a volunteer who teaches exercises, introduced some green exercise in one of the clearings in the Sanctuary. Children and leaders all participated and she even had the children devising their own games. It was a Friday afternoon well spent for both visitors and staff.

Turtles, Tortoises and Torti: a voluntary week on Cousin Island

The following account of Sarah Bunce’s voluntary time on Cousin Island during the turtle season appeared in Zwazo, Issue 22, which is available for free download.

I’ve just returned from a wonderful week on Cousin Island where the boat ride up onto the beach is just beginning of the rush of things to do and see as a volunteer.

As the Hawksbill sea turtle egg laying season is just peaking my friend and I were able to lend some hands to the sea turtle monitoring programme.  Cousin Island Special reserve has been collecting data about sea turtles since 1972 so Gilles-David Derand, the Nature Seychelles Science Coordinator from Mahé, showed us the ropes of this well established programme.

We had a bit of time to settle into our digs and meet the 3 students from the Seychelles Maritime School who are on Cousin for a month of work experience before their graduation; plus a volunteer from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, UK.  It was a fun group of young women living away from home for the first time and generally enjoying one another’s company.

Then it was off to find turtles on our first patrol.  As hoped, the turtles were out and about.  I had the great pleasure of watching the process from body pitting to returning to the sea.  During body pitting the turtle settled herself into the sand, under some vegetation for shade, by using her front flippers and body to create an impression of her body while clearing away the surface leaf litter.  Once she seemed comfortable, she started to dig the egg chamber.  This fascinating process involves the use of her back flippers in a highly agile and manipulative way.  She is able to create a long scoop with her flipper to dig sand from as deep as 60cm.  It looks like she scoops the sand up with one flipper dumps it and then pushes it away with the other flipper.  Alternating flippers she achieved her goal.  Between sessions of flying sand there were lovely pauses when she seemed to catch her breath and worked up her resources to recommence the dig.

flying sand as this turtle digs her chamber (Herve Chelle)

flying sand as this turtle digs her chamber (Herve Chelle)

Then, the laying began, peering down into the depths; I could see the light yellow ping pong ball size eggs dropping into the chamber.  Again there were little pauses in the process, when she would raise her head a bit and seem to take a deep breath before more eggs would drop.  After about 45 minutes she was finished with the hard part.  Now she pushed the sand over the eggs and proceeded to gently pat the mound under which her babies would incubate for the next 65 days, again with her rear flippers.  Finally, she camouflaged the mound and nest to prevent the ghost crabs or other predators from digging up the eggs for supper.  Camouflaging seemed to involve a lot of flying sand and generally stirring up the surface near the nest to spread vegetation.  She created a clear crescent with her front flippers maybe to infer the nest was located a bit further away. Read More »

Zwazo 22 tackles climate change

Zwazo 22 carries stories on climate change adaptation and mitigation

Zwazo 22 carries stories on climate change adaptation and mitigation

It’s difficult to talk about climate change without a touch of desperation. The news we hear is grim. From failed talks, to extreme warming events in our seas, species in danger, floods, droughts and crop failures. The world is indeed in peril.

But slowly this harsh reality is beginning to be tempered with stories of hope. We hear now about activities to mitigate and adapt to climate change. The latest Zwazo – number 22 – brings you some of these stories.

The end of year even came with a ray of light from the climate talks in Cancún, Mexico. For although progress was not made on emissions reductions, there was still enough steps forward to warrant optimism for the next round of talks in South Africa. These talks it is hoped will finally nail down a globally binding agreement on long term actions to address climate change.

Outcomes from Cancún such as REDD+, which is a deal to protect tropical forests, the Cancún Adaptation Framework, which was established to enhance action in adaptation, and financing adaptation and mitigation through the establishment of the Green Climate Fund, were widely applauded.

With regards to biodiversity and climate change, many steps are being taken at home and in the region to help species and ecosystems respond to climate change. We bring you some of these stories.

Some of them have been engineered by ourselves such as the project to re-stock dead corals in selected sites in Seychelles and to make the nature reserve we manage carbon neutral. We hope these steps will inspire others to respond with more action.

Concern has also been raised about the effects of climate change and its impacts food security in the Seychelles. We highlight Seychelles response in this issue.

A free copy is available for download from our e-library and from Issuu.

The above is part of the editorial from Zwazo Number 22. Zwazo is the Creole word for Bird.

Climate change and sea level – More beaches or fewer islands?

Don’t hold your breath; climate change is here to stay, says Nirmal Shah, in this article in today’s Seychelles Nation.

Sea-level rise will submerge most of our low-lying areas, including entire coral islands – this is the conventional wisdom.

But a new study by 13 scientists at the University of Colorado and the National Centre for Atmospheric Research in the United States, published on June 11 in the online Nature Geoscience journal, says the opposite.

The paper – entitled Patterns of Indian Ocean sea-level change in a warming climate – states that since the 1960s there has been a substantial fall in sea levels around Seychelles and the south tropical region of the Indian Ocean including Zanzibar – a surprising conclusion.

The paper says that sea-level rise is not uniform across the world and is affected by changes in atmospheric or oceanic currents. The study combined actual sea surface measurements and satellite observations of the Indian Ocean sea level since the 1960s with climate-model simulations.

Sea-level rises have been much higher along the coastlines of East Africa, the Mascarene islands, the Bay of Bengal, the Arabian Sea, Sri Lanka and the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Java, the paper says.

The major instigator is the Indo-Pacific warm pool, a very large bathtub-shaped area of the tropical oceans stretching from East Africa to the International Date Line in the Pacific. It is known that the warm pool has heated up by about 0.5 degrees Celsius in the past 50 years.

But the two major atmospheric wind patterns in the Indian Ocean, known as the Hadley circulation and the Walker circulation, cause an uneven distribution of water levels across this huge “bathtub”, which explains the drop in sea level in some areas and the increase in others.

However, another group of scientists studying the same phenomenon have reacted to the paper this week and are claiming just the opposite.

Axel Timmermann, Shayne McGregor and Fei-Fei Jin of the University of Hawaii – who have a paper in press in the Journal of Climate published by the American Meteorological Society – have said they are astonished by these conclusions.

Their paper – entitled Wind effects on past and future regional sea-level trends in the southern Indo-Pacific – says Seychelles could see up to 10% more sea-level rise than the global average.

The main difference between the two studies is in their estimation of how wind patterns will change due to climate change.

The computer-generated climate models of Timmermann, McGregor and Jin, as well as those of  the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, predict more warming near the equator and on the western side of the ocean basin. But in reality the observed warming has been on the eastern side.

There could be two reasons for this difference. Timmermann says the actual changes in sea surface temperature are due to natural variability in the ocean that cancelled out the human-caused changes predicted by the models.

The second possibility, says Weiqing Han, lead author of the Nature Geoscience paper, is that climate models are not very good for this part of the ocean, and we should expect the future to be more in line with the real changes we have seen so far – a pragmatic point of view, others say.

Whatever the case may be, don’t hold your breath. Climate change is here to stay; we just do not know what to expect – more beaches or fewer islands.

Climate change and sea level – do we gain beaches or lose islands? – 26.07.2010 Source: Seychelles Nation

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?

Meet the Skinks

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Saving Biodiversity Saves Life

The United Nations launched 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity (IYB) on 12 January in Berlin while calling the world to action to slow down the rate of biodiversity loss. In a message to the world UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said, “Business as usual is not an option.” Here is a powerful message that everyone needs to see courtesy of the official IYB website.

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Among activities to be carried out during this year are raising awareness on the importance of conserving biodiversity for human well-being and promoting understanding of the economic value of biodiversity. Dr. Ahmed Djoghlaf, the Executive Secretary of the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), running this global campaign says, “Biodiversity is life and without biodiversity, there is no life on earth. It’s our food. It’s our water. It’s our forest, our fish. So without biodiversity, there is no life. So biodiversity is about our life and life on earth”.

The BirdLife Partnership (Nature Seychelles is BirdLife’s patner in Seychelles) is an official partner of the International Year of Biodiversity. BirdLife’s work on birds, habitats, and communities has helped to keep track of losses and successes in biodiversity conservation. For instance, Seychelles has proven through its conservation successes with habitat restoration for endemic bird species that protecting birds is good for other species too. “There is a ripple effect that benefits people and their livelihoods. Similarly a reversal is interlinked, loss of biodiversity ultimately affects us.” Says Nirmal Shah, Nature Seychelles Chief Executive.

During the year, progress towards reducing biodiversity loss will be reviewed and new proposals and targets to counter further loss set. Already the World Conservation Union (IUCN) is sounding the alarm over loss of species. “The abundance of species has declined. Species present in rivers, lakes and marshlands have declined by 50%. Declines are alarming in amphibians, mammals, birds in agricultural lands, corals and commonly harvested fish species.” Says IUCN.

A high percentage of this loss is occurring due to human activities. Habitat loss and degradation are the leading threats so is climate change. Species and ecosystems need space to develop and recover. There’s a worldwide call to action. Governments are being asked to balance economic development with maintaining and improving ecosystems and habitats. Farmers are being asked to develop farm diversity and reduce the use of pesticides and fertilizer and adopt organic agriculture practices. 75% of all fisheries are fully exploited or over-fished, therefore there is a need for sustainable use of fisheries or there will simply be no fish left for tomorrow. And climate change has to be combated to ensure that species survive. At individual level, such actions as simply not wasting, and re-using and re-cycling whatever is used can help to conserve biodiversity.

To contribute to creating awareness during the International Year for Biodiversity, the Januarry – June 2010 Zwazo, Nature Seychelles conservation magazine will carry articles and information about biodiversity conservation efforts in the Seychelles.

Ian’s Cousin Blog

me holding a Lesser noddy

This is me holding a Lesser noddy

Hello. My name is Ian Valmont. Am the new Island Coordinator for Cousin Island. I wanted to introduce myself and also to let you know that I will be a regular contributor to the Blog.

A little about myself. Am not a stranger to Cousin Island. For the past decade, I have worked mainly for Nature Seychelles and spent a considerable amount of that time on the Island.

Iam a keen birder and I enjoy being on Cousin which frankly is a birder’s paradise. Very few people are this lucky. There is always something interesting going on. I have just been taking pictures of a Northern Pintail (Anas acuta) that’s been wintering here since December. It’s on its own. For those who might not know the Northern Pintail is a duck that breeds throughout North America and northern Asia, but comes to our parts as well as Africa, India, Burma, and Japan for the winter. The vagrant ducks are found in the granitic Seychelles from November to December. In the north it would be found in shallow, wide open tools and lakes. But it uses coastal waters during winter. This one sure knows how to pick its vacation spot!

This Northern pintail has been vacationing on Cousin since December. A word of advice mate, next time bring someone!

This Northern pintail has been vacationing on Cousin since December. A word of advice mate, next time bring someone!

On the Island I will be coordinating conservation and research on some of Seychelles rarest bird species, including the Seychelles warbler (Timerl Dezil in Creole), the Seychelles magpie-robin (Creole: Pi Santez) and the Seychelles fody (Creole: Tok Tok). I am a bird ringer with accreditation from South African Ring (SAFring), specializing in the endemic passerines and seabirds. I have rung and taken biometric measurements of more than 500 individual birds. This experience has  provided me with the opportunity to visit some of Seychelles unique places with important bird populations such as the Aldabra atoll in the southern part of the archipelago. I have also helped to rehabilitate habitats on other islands in the Seychelles for the re-introduction of endemic bird species.

I take an interest in all aspects of nature. For the past year, I have been involved in monitoring of roosts for the endangered Seychelles Sheath tailed bat on Mahe. I have a passion for mentoring younger Seychellois in conservation. So am looking forward to moulding younger and newer staff to be the best, ensuring that Cousin is one of the best-run Nature Reserves in the world

I look forward to conversing with you our readers. I would be happy to answer any questions you have about Cousin.


With love from Italy

Italian visitors to Cousin Island Special Reserve now have access to information on the Island in their own language thanks to Prof. Massimo Pandolfi of the University of Urbino and the Seychelles Heritage Conservation Study Group. Prof. Pandolfi recently presented Nature Seychelles with an Italian version of the Cousin Island tourist information leaflet he helped produce with his colleagues. Pandolfi was responding to a need for a third translation of the leaflet that is currently in English and French.

See video below of the presentation of the guide at our offices in Roche Caiman.

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The calm seas over the last few weeks provided the perfect opportunity for coral reef monitoring to get underway on Cousin, Mary one of our volunteers reports. Three sites have been surveyed, representing the different habitats around the island. A team of 4 divers have been collecting data on the benthic, fish and invertebrate communities in addition to documenting coral recruitment. With these first surveys completed, regular monitoring will continue in the future to help us document any changes which are taking place on the reefs.

Coral reef monitoring

Coral reef monitoring © Conor Jameson

Cousin Island is one of the longest established marine reserves in the world and the coral reefs surrounding the island have undergone many changes over the last few years. Like other reefs in Seychelles they were particularly badly affected by coral bleaching in 1998 which led to a dramatic reduction in live coral cover and a resultant increase in algal cover. Given the importance of coral reefs as sites of high biodiversity it is important to document these changes in order that these resources can be effectively managed and preserved. This can be achieved through regular monitoring of these ecosystems to keep track of any changes which occur.