Wise practice guidelines for rare species published

A vital milestone has been reached in the ongoing conservation campaign to save rare endemic species. Nature Seychelles, supported by the Seychelles Magpie Robin Recovery Team (SMART), and with funding from the Environment Trust Fund and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), has published the Best Practice Handbook for Management of a Critically Endangered Species - the Seychelles Magpie Robin (or Pi Santez). The book is the culmination of 16 years of intensive practical conservation effort, compiled in one volume as a record of all that has been learned since the Recovery Plan for the species kicked in to action in 1990.
“It is a big moment for all of us in the team who have been connected with the work to save and secure the Magpie Robin,” says SMART team leader Rachel Bristol of Nature Seychelles, who is also one of the authors of the handbook.

“The achievements that have been made so far are a success story not only in world conservation terms, as very few species have so far been pulled back from a position of critical endangerment, but also in terms of joint action between different islands and organisations. The SMART team has provided a platform for all stakeholders to participate and share ownership of the programme, and to join together our efforts for the benefit of the species.”

Between the 1950s and 1990s, the entire world population of Magpie Robins was confined to Fregate Island. At times the species came very close to the brink of oblivion. The Recovery Programme began in 1990, when the population was 23 birds. At that time, BirdLife International and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds worked closely with the Seychelles Government to take the urgent action necessary to save the species.

The main actions taken were:

    Habitat creation (clearance of invasive weeds and planting of native trees)
    Supplementary feeding
    Provision of nest boxes
    Control of non-native predators
    Training of local staff
    Translocations to other, suitable islands
    Colour ringing and monitoring of the magpie-robins.

Magpie-robin populations are now established on the islands of Cousin, Cousine and Aride, and the total population stands at around 150 birds.

“Despite the success so far, the species remains one of the rarest birds in the world, and we cannot afford to relax our efforts in any way”, added Rachel Bristol. “The handbook consolidates the work done so far and ensures that new staff and volunteers joining the programme can access the best information and knowledge available. Capturing and passing on the knowledge is one of the most important aspects of this book.”

“We have always felt that ‘best practice’ should perhaps be renamed ‘wise practice’”, said Nirmal Shah. “The guidelines will improve further as those involved in protecting and consolidating the Magpie-robins add their new findings to the book.”

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