Advancing Environmental Management Practices & Threatened Species Recovery through Partnerships with Private Sector – First Phase

A CEPF funded project from the Island Biodiversity and Conservation centre of UniSey

DSC_0035The project aims at improving ecosystem management, conservation of rare species and biodiversity monitoring, through partnership between private sector and NGO/University. One of the first activities to be carried out under component 1, was to establish partnerships between IBC and selected partners under the project. Partnerships were established with University of Seychelles, Sainte Anne Resort (whereby Memorandum of Understanding were signed); Sisters Ltd of Grande Sœur (written approval of programme activities to be carried out on the island); Seychelles National Parks Authority (SNPA), La Misère school (Ministry of Education), Parents Teachers Association, Wildlife Club of Seychelles and Eco-Academia of the University of Seychelles.

Secondly, since Ste. Anne Resort will be undergoing through a renovation phase in September 2017, and it is imperative that a Bio-safety protocol is put in place to minimise risks of introducing new Invasive Alien Species. Hence a Bio-safety protocol is being drafted in that regard. Similarly, a review and update of the current Bio-safety protocol for Grande Soeur is being done.

One aspect of the project focuses on the conservation introduction of rare and threatened species on Ste Anne, Mahé and Grande Soeur. Prior to achieving this, there is a need for assessments and preparations in view of pest management and vegetation rehabilitation. Hence, as part of pest management under component 2, IBC decided to offer training on pesticide handling and application. This was a two-day course in May 2017, at Anse Royale university campus in collaboration with the Seychelles Institute for Agriculture and Horticulture (SIAH) and the Ministry of Health. The course targeted conservation practitioners who use pesticides as part of their duties. 14 participants were present and will obtain a Certificate of capacity valid for 3 years to handle and apply pesticides. All pesticide handlers are required by law to do the training and hence be certified to handle and apply pesticides.

In terms of vegetation rehabilitation, a Vegetation Rehabilitation plan was prepared to guide rehabilitation activities (See Henriette, E., Pierre, N. and Rocamora, G. 2017. Rehabilitation within the Seychelles White-eye breeding territories on Mahé & of 1 hectare of forest on Sainte Anne in view of a potential translocation of the Seychelles White-eye). At the same time plant propagation in nurseries started (1500 native seedlings targeted for planting on Mahé & Ste. Anne, and min. 1000 seedlings on Grande Soeur)DSC_0019

In terms of controlling the density of rats in Seychelles White-eye territories, it was required to conduct a rat density monitoring prior to any control measures. This was done at the Ex-Tracking station, Mahé, during March 2017. 49 traps with coconut bait were deployed and set up in a quadrat covering 1 hectare in the forest. These were checked daily over 8 consecutive days. 11 rats were captured, including 7 recaptures. The species of rat was identified, the individual measured, weighted, sex and age determined before being released. Rat density was calculated by one of IBC collaborator Dr. James Russell, at 7 rats per ha. The same activity will be repeated during the dry season (August-September) to obtain another set of results for comparison between seasons.

As per Component 3 of the project, the IBC team conducted several assessments, safeguard preparations and management planning for translocation of rare and threatened species (i.e.  the Seychelles White-­eye, Seychelles Leaf Insect and Aldabra Giant Tortoise). This is necessary prior to any species translocation.

Population census of the Seychelles White Eye (SWE) was carried out on Frégate Island (February-March 2017), Mahé (April) and North Island (April-May). Birds were captured in mist-nets, ringed, biometric measurements taken, as well as blood samples to determine their sex. 50 point count surveys were then done on Frégate and North islands to estimate the White-eye populations. Preliminary analysis estimate the Frégate population at min. 200 birds, North Island at least 100 individuals, and less than 30 for Mahé. The Mahé population is very critical.

Habitat suitability assessment was started on Grande Soeur in June to assess the suitability of the island for the White-eyes. 6 out of 30 vegetation points were conducted. Data on several vegetation parameters and the abundance of invertebrate and fruits were collected. This activity will continue every 2 months.

Pre-translocation activities to (re)create new island populations of other threatened species (i.e. Aldabra Giant Tortoise and Seychelles Leaf insect) and improve their conservation status were also carried out. Habitat suitability assessments were carried out on Sainte Anne in May 2017 prior to the planned translocation of the Aldabra Giant Tortoise. This was conducted on 3 coastal areas: Petit Manon, Grand Manon and Grand Anse. Several data elements were recorded such as vegetation type, coverage, plant species and abundance. Over 350 coconut trees were identified and demarcated for removal to improve the habitat. Only Petit Manon and Grand Anse were found to be suitable for the Giant tortoise. A Habitat suitability and Translocation proposal is being prepared.

The Seychelles Leaf insect is also a species targeted under the project. The species is very rare and localised, known only from 4 islands: Mahé, Ile au Cerf, Praslin and Silhouette. The project plans to set up a Captive breeding facility on the compound of UniSey at Anse Royale. Details of the captive breeding facility have been determined and a proposal is being drafted. The facility will be ca. 5m2 and 2 m high, covered with shade cloth, and suitable living plants will be placed inside (e.g. Terminalia catappa, Syzygium cumini and Syzygium jambos). Young insects will be placed onto fresh leaves to grow and breed. Their eggs will be collected and placed in a plastic sandbox for incubation. The youngs will be kept in the breeding facility until they ready for release into the wild.

DSC_0010Component 4 of the project addresses capacity building, communication and project development. As part of capacity building and awareness, the IBC team conducted activities with the La Misère communities to engage them in conservation-orientated activities particularly those related to threatened species i.e. the White-eye; develop citizen/community scientists and enrich school ‘science’ curriculum with hands-on practical experiences etc. The first activity was a meeting with the La Misère School Management to present the project and gain their support for the conservation programme. The second activity was a presentation with La Misère school teachers to raise awareness and discuss opportunities for them under the project. The participants present recognized the benefits of such a collaboration: training and sensitization during field activities e.g. vegetation, bird and invertebrate monitoring, nursery-based plant propagation and planting, plant identification etc; eco-tourism opportunities through birding or nature trails; habitat rehabilitation, and rat control (reduced human risks and threats to wildlife).

So far the project is well on the way and several activities have been completed as planned.

By Elvina Henriette  – Coordinatrice du projet CEPF

Island Biodiversity Conservation Seychelles