Unique learning programme aims to enhance conservation

The Nature Seychelles’ HQ was as busy as a peak-season seabird island on Monday, November 28th 2005, as conservationists from throughout the islands gathered at the Environment and Education Centre. It was the start of the ten-day learning programme, Island Species-Led Action (ISLA) that we are hosting. The programme covers both the theory and real-world practice of island species conservation. We have been delighted at the response from our partners and colleagues in conservation here.

Opening of the course © D. Nguyen

Opening speech by Dr. Shah, Nature Seychelles' CEO © D. Nguyen

Island conservation managers and wardens participating in the training © D. Nguyen

The programme is being conducted by the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, and facilitated by Nature Seychelles’ technical staff. The trust is based on the island of Jersey in the English Channel, off the coast of France. It has an international reputation for delivering training of this kind. The overall goal of the learning programme is to enhance the capacity for effective conservation in Seychelles through joint working and novel approaches.

In officially opening the event, Nirmal Shah, Nature Seychelles CEO, welcomed the 20 participants, the facilitators, guests and representatives of the media. He described the ways in which this new learning programme is unique.

“There have been capacity development programmes in Seychelles before,” he said, “but this one builds on actual work we have been doing for many years and therefore the fit between theory and practice is very good. Moreover, the lecturers are not academics but highly experienced conservation practitioners, involved in some of the most famous success stories of global conservation, such as the rescue of the Mauritius Kestrel and the Echo Parakeet.

“Finally, this programme takes the human aspect of conservation seriously, and this tallies well with our emphasis on partnership building and participation”, he went on. “Biodiversity conservation is in many respects about managing people – all things being equal, the biodiversity can look after itself. It’s often people we need to manage and work with – both within the conservation community and in other stakeholder groups.”

There is no doubt that in a small island state like Seychelles where resources, financial as well as human are scarce, long-term conservation requires win-win partnerships between organisations and individuals. The learning programme aims to foster these types of initiatives. The participants represent organisations such as the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, the Praslin Development Fund, and the Marine Parks Authority, non-government organisations (NGOs) as well as private islands including Fregate, Bird, D’Arros, North, Aride, Denis and Cousine.

Through participatory exercises, they are building their theoretical and practical understanding of island species conservation with an introduction to the ‘people skills’ required to form effective and cross-disciplinary working partnerships. Participants are also being encouraged to challenge existing understanding and to think ‘outside the box’ to be able to solve the new kinds of problems faced by conservationists every day.

Nature Seychelles and its partner in the programme, Cousine Island Pty LTD, would like to thank the main sponsors, the World Bank Global Environment Facility (GEF), as well as the Commonwealth Foundation and the Seychelles Environment Trust Fund, for their support in bringing the programme to Seychelles and further consolidating our capacity for conservation across the islands.

Nature Seychelles, November 28th 2005

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