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.
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.
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.