Minor theft, major problem

The success of a three year € 200,000 conservation project has been left in the balance after the theft of 60 metres of standard issue green chain link fencing. The fence was cut out of the 700 metre boundary of the Nature Seychelles-managed Roche Caiman Sanctuary, a small fresh water wetland area, just two kilometres from Seychelles’ capital Victoria, which is nearing the end of a three year restoration project.

Nature Seychelles paid a total of SR215,000 for the purchase and erection of the fencing surrounding the Roche Caiman Sanctuary and estimates that about SR5,000 worth has been stolen. But the limited financial harm is likely to result in far greater environmental damage.

“The financial value of the stolen fence is not great in itself, but the fence used was imported from Singapore under the project which funded the restoration of the wetland. We have no money left to replace it,” said Nature Seychelles’ Wetlands Manager, Jon Dale. Repeated attempts to source similar fencing locally have met with failure.

With gaping holes in the sanctuary’s fenced perimeter stray dogs and cats are now able to get into the 2.7 hectare wetland and chase and kill the local and migratory birds which live there. Destruction of the bird species which use the wetland will disrupt the entire ecosystem and prevent the opening of the wetland, which was scheduled to begin life as an interactive educational tool for school students, local communities and tourist visitors soon.

“The first casualty of this theft is the environment, as an ecosystem which has been the focus of so much rehabilitation work will suffer. But perhaps the biggest losers will be the school students and Wildlife Clubs of Seychelles members who are looking forward to one day using the Roche Caiman Sanctuary as one vast outdoor environmental class room,” said Nature Seychelles CEO, Nirmal Shah.

The Nature Seychelles project to rehabilitate the Roche Caiman wetland started in 2002 when management of the neglected wetland site was handed over to the NGO by the government of Seychelles. Prior to Nature Seychelles’ involvement, the site had been under the care of another local conservation NGO, but had fallen in to neglect due to a lack of financial and human capacity.

With the experience of Nature Seychelles combined with funding from a Danish environmental organisation and experience from the Royal Society for Protection of Birds (RSPB), the Roche Caiman Sanctuary was well on its way to becoming a valuable close-to-town example of a threatened ecosystem which once flourished in Seychelles.

“This theft would seem relatively minor in many places, but in Seychelles and on this restoration project, it has had a major negative impact. The project is now ruined.” said Mr Shah.

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