Reaching out for necessary knowledge

A brief online tour of Google Earth, or a flick through any atlas will quickly give you some vital information about Seychelles: the country is a long, long way from anywhere else. Hundreds of kilometres from our nearest island neighbours and the African mainland, the specks in the Indian Ocean that are Seychelles have been equally blessed and cursed by their remoteness.

The watery expanse between Seychelles and Africa has allowed unique ecosystems to develop on the islands, species unseen anywhere else in the world allowed to evolve in a relatively secure and secluded environment.

Nirmal Shah and Prof. Massimo Panndolfi shake hands after signing the agreement to share skills on tropical biodiversity © Dao Nguyen


But the same remoteness has also meant that Seychelles’ environment has missed out on the research, examination and attention enjoyed by other environmental phenomenon, and clearly warranted by the distinctiveness of the island habitats.

Even the wonders of Aldabra can’t compete for scientific research funds and wildlife documentary makers’ time with the likes of the Serengeti or the Great Barrier Reef.

And with a population that only just tops the 80,000 mark, finding local expertise to carry out cutting-edge research on Seychelles’ fauna and flora is a challenging task.

Hoping to surmount this problem Nature Seychelles yesterday signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Universita degli Studi di Urbino (University of Urbino), which will see the two organisations piggy-back on one another’s expertise in the field of environmental research.

Nature Seychelles already has a number of links with overseas organisations, such as Birdlife International and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, but this is the first time such a wide ranging agreement has been struck with a university.

Located in the city of Urbino, in north-east Italy, the university attracts over 20,000 students and has a research pedigree dating back to the early years of the sixteenth century.

By taping into the expertise on offer at the University of Urbino, Nature Seychelles hopes to improve and increase its scientific monitoring work, at the same time as offering Italian students a unique and under-studied environment in which to put their classroom-learned theory into practice.

And at the same time as strengthening links with educational and research organisations overseas the signing of the Urbino agreement will also enable Nature Seychelles to play a greater role in improving inter-agency links within Seychelles.

Nature Seychelles Chief Executive, Nirmal Shah, said yesterday that, “Today’s signing will, I hope, be of benefit to all organisations – government and non-government – which are working for the good of Seychelles’ environment. Meetings, training, capacity development and other opportunities for sharing conservation knowledge will be open to all relevant parties,”

If organisations working for the environment in Seychelles, whether in government or the private sector, are to overcome the constraints imposed by living in a small, remote island location, partnerships similar to that signed yesterday will be vital in introducing much needed skills and expertise.

Nature Seychelles, 21st September 2006

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