Seychelles’ stance in dealing with alien invaders (and I should be clear that we are talking about animal and plant invaders, not people) has long been to deal with the problem once it arrives.
Nature Seychelles and other environmental organizations in the country have devoted vast amounts of time and resources to eradicating rats and cats from islands, removing introduced plants from wetlands and scaring Barn Owls away from bat roosts.
But following the old adage that prevention is better than cure, Seychelles’ environmentalists are waking up to the fact that stopping invasive species from arriving is often an easier and cheaper option than waging a war against them once they are here.
Nature Seychelles’ managed Cousin Special Reserve – a 27 hectare island dedicated to environmental protection – annually welcomes upwards of 10,000 tourist visitors for half-day tours of the island. But while offering a warm welcome to the guests whose landing fees pay for environmental action on the island and in the rest of Seychelles, the policy on non-human visits is a strict “Keep Out.”
Tourist boats are obliged to tie up to permanent mooring buoys some 200 metres off shore, and the tourist visitors are ferried ashore onboard Cousin’s own small boat, as a necessary precaution against the accidental introduction of rats to the island, which is home to five of Seychelles’ endemic land bird species.
Similar measures are in force on a number of other Seychelles islands where conservation is a concern and the country is now starting to follow the lead of the environmentally aware islands.
Two brand new, purpose built incinerators have been installed at the country’s international airport and main sea port.
Sponsored by the European Union the two incinerators are now in the frontline of national efforts to slow the spread of the melon fruit fly.
This particular pest, which has already made its way into Seychelles, is proving a blight for local farmers as it destroys crops. So, while spraying and trapping efforts are carried out in Seychelles’ agricultural areas, hawk-eyed customs officers are confiscating infested plants and plant products and destroying them on site.
Belatedly we are waking up to the need to keep alien invasive species at bay rather than waiting to pay the environmental price of letting them in.