Saving the special birds of Seychelles

RSPB began work in Seychelles in 1996 and helped found Nature Seychelles two years later. Our work has focused on targeted action to prevent extinction of island endemics in particular Seychelles Magpie Robin.

Great Frigate bird, juvenile in flight

Overview

We have provided institutional support to Nature Seychelles and assisted their management of the world famous Cousin Island. They are now expanding their incredible success with birds to conservation of other animals such as bats and amphibians.
 
Seychelles has stunning scenery and one of the most important suites of island endemic birds in the world. Until recently many of these were on the brink of extinction.  BirdLife have been involved in Seychelles since 1998 when they were able to purchase Cousin Island, at that time the last refuge of Seychelles Warbler. They requested the involvement of RSPB in the programme to protect Seychelles Magpie-robin and later to help improve the institutional structure for conservation.

A number of major consultation fora led to the foundation of BirdLife (later Nature Seychelles) in 1998. Extinctions had occurred mainly because of the spread of invasive plants and predators, especially rats across almost all islands (Cousin was an exception). Recovery plans for species therefore prioritised restoring indigenous vegetation, rat eradication and subsequent transfers of small numbers of birds to islands from which they had previously died out.
 
Nature Seychelles is a well managed organisation ensuring no extinctions and recovering populations among Seychelles’ threatened and endemic species.  

Objectives

  • Nature Seychelles is an effective BirdLife partner and the leading conservation organisation in the Seychelles.
  • Nature Seychelles effectively influence national and regional policies, plans and actions.
  • Good research and monitoring data is available to inform Nature Seychelles' conservation action.
  • Conservation status of key sites, species and habitats enhanced.
  • Increased public support for conservation on Seychelles.
  • Cousin Island efficiently managed and delivering its optimal conservation potential.
  • Funding increased from diversified sources.

Key Dates

  • 1968 - Cousin Island purchased to save the Seychelles Warbler.
  • 1988 - Research into decline of Seychelles Magpie Robin commences.
  • 1996 - major RSPB funded workshop to review bird conservation in Seychelles and develop a future strategy.
  • 1998 - BirdLife Seychelles starts operating with RSPB support. Soon after it secures major international funding from the Global Environment Facility (Medium Size Project) and achieves much of its first five-year plan in two years!
  • 1999 - BirdLife Seychelles sets up the Seychelles Magpie robin Recovery Team (SMART).
  • 2002 - Changes name to Nature Seychelles to reflect its developing role in saving other species and to attract wider support.
  • 2004 - Nature Seychelles secures its second GEF Medium Size Project to work with private islands for restoration of critical habitats.
  • 2004 - several species saved from extinction as a result of Nature Seychelles conservation action.
  • 2005 - Starts restoration of the Sanctuary at Roche Caiman, the only urban wetland sanctuary in Seychelles, through a generous grant from Jensen Foundation.
  • 2006 - Darwin Initiative and Canterbury University support major recovery programme for Seychelles Flycatcher with RSPB education input.
  • 2008 - Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund supports transfer of Seychelles Magpie Robin to a fifth island - Denis. This translocation takes place successfully in July with the transfer of flycatchers from La Digue to Denis following in November. Further funds from Disney for a transfer of Seychelles Warbler received in May 2009.

Planned Work

Current RSPB involvement includes:

  • Ongoing support to NatureSeychelles core functions.
  • Co-management of Disney worldwide conservation fund programme to conserve Seychelles magpie robin and other threatened species.
  • Assistance to Nature Seychelles education programme especially on Seychelles flycatcher awareness.
  • Recruitment of gap year volunteers to help on Cousin Island from the ranks of RSPB Wildlife Explorers.
  • Assistance with project to develop Cousin Island as a carbon neutral island, now supported by British High Commission in Seychelles.
  • Support to enhance Nature Seychelles membership and marketing initiatives.

 

Results

Nature Seychelles have achieved an outstanding conservation record in only 10 years.  They have managed to undertake much proactive work on assessing the status of islands, organising predator eradications and translocations.  

Three species – magpie robin, fody and warbler have had their populations increase and had their threat status reduced in the Red Data Book. This is as a direct result of Nature Seychelles' work, which makes them global leaders in reducing extinction risk. Their targeted research work in difficult terrain on the Seychelles scops owl improved our knowledge of this species, allowing the species to be downlisted in the Red Data Book from Critically Endangered. They have just moved 23 Seychelles flycatchers from La Digue to Denis – previously La Digue was the only island with this critically endangered species. Earlier in 2008 they moved 20 magpie robins from Cousin and Fregate to Denis – the fifth island on which this species now occurs.
 
Cousin is extremely successful both as a reserve for threatened species and as a model for ecotourism. It is visited by around 10,000 people each year, has won several awards and generates vital income for conservation work. It is wardened by around seven full-time local wardens who live in situ. A volunteer gap year program was recently started with logistical assistance from RSPB.
 
Nature Seychelles has good relations with a number of private island owners in particular Fregate, Denis, Darros and  Cousine. These relationships are essential in facilitating new conservation initiatives such as island restoration and new introductions.
 
They have done research and assessment work, especially on the tiny and unique frogs of Seychelles and the critically threatened sheath-tailed bat, although generally this has been hampered by lack of available funds. Cousin is one of the most important sites in the Indian Ocean for marine turtles.
 
Nature Seychelles have an excellent record of conservation education primarily through the Wildlife Clubs and have been able to involve a substantial number of the island’s children in their activities. They developed a colour text book Learning for Sustainable Living in Seychelles which has been introduced in the  curricula and in training of teachers at the National Institute of Education.
 
Nature Seychelles produces a superb colour magazine Zwazo, twice a year. 
 

Species affected (not UK birds)

The focus of this work is on Seychelles' endemic species, in particular the Seychelles magpie robin, Seychelles fody, Seychelles flycatcher and Seychelles warbler.  The islands, especially Cousin are also very important breeding sites for a number of seabirds including sooty tern, lesser noddy, greater and lesser frigatebirds, tropicbirds and shearwaters.

Contacts

Coast on a stormy day

Chris Magin

Head of Section Partner Development, International Country Programmes

chris.magin@rspb.org.uk
Tagged with: Country: International Country: Seychelles Project status: Ongoing Project types: Advocacy Project types: Education Project types: Organisation development Project types: Site protection Project types: Species protection