Small Island States [SIDS] have peculiar constraints and in Seychelles with 115 islands spread over 1.3 million sq. kilometers of ocean this challenge is acute. Dr. Nirmal Shah has led Nature Seychelles to use and embrace ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies) to enhance conservation action so as to facilitate conservation and at the same time bolster education and raise awareness.
[MAHE 8/09/08] To ensure maximum reach, Nature Seychelles has worked with strong partners drawn from the private sector, governmental departments and even international donor agencies to ensure that the fragile ecosystem espoused within the pristine island nation of Seychelles is not only protected for posterity but also accessed for educational purposes. Among the key agencies that are working with Nature Seychelles in its “Technology for Conservation Programme” (TeCoPro) include, Nortel Communications, Barclays Bank, Cable and Wireless, IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), AirTel, Google and the World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA).
“For the last ten years, Nature Seychelles has incorporated and deployed New media technologies notably, mobile phones, Satellite tracking, CD-ROMS, Digital Photos, Internet and Web 2.0 among others to succour species survival and enhance marine conservation. We see technology as a friend and not a hindrance to our work.” Says Shah.
Walkie talkies and VHF radios were not adequate to enhance communication between the Wardens of Cousin Island Special Reserve police and coastguards for surveillance, patrols and anti poaching action. As such, Mobile phones were deployed to all the wardens for communication of incidences, accidents and other marine related concerns.
Nature Seychelles uses SMS and MMS to inform it members of meetings, events and other important action. Nature Seychelles officer in remote conservation sites and islands use 3G technology on mobile phones to access e-mail and the internet for communication.
Nature Seychelles has digitized all its conservation education manuals and materials and placed them on CD ROMS that are distributed to schools in Seychelles. It supports the Wildlife Clubs of Seychelles to record original environmental songs on CD which are to be sold for fund raising purposes. It collaborates with several media houses to undertake digital films on Seychelles wildlife and plans to launch a “YouTube” and “PodCast” platform of all these films on its website for downloading.
It has established a digital photo database of approximately 20,000 photos on all aspects of Seychelles environment through the highly interactive and friendly PICASSA software.
Young Seychellois, Wildlife Clubs of Seychelles leaders and other conservation enthusiasts are currently being trained in module formats on a wide range of ICT platforms to empower them and enable them in real time conservation communication.
It has enabled prerecorded Power Point presentations which were uploaded to a web site and then downloaded to another country for presentation where the Nature Seychelles representative(s) are unable to attend the conference in person.
It has an interactive website which is updated fortnightly and which has downloadable links. It is in the process of undertaking wikis and WEB 2.0 to enable young Seychellois to blog on conservation matters.
Nature Seychelles articles are hosted on the Seychelles national website and others
Nature Seychelles uses Skype to communicate between remote sites and countries for conference calling. It has a LAN for its two offices on two islands
It has an automated fortnightly news flash that is sent all over the world.
REMOTE SENSING & WEB
Currently collaborating with the Marine Conservation Society of Seychelles (MCSS), Wildlife Clubs of Seychelles (WCS) and Barclays Bank to track the critically endangered Turtles project using GIS and the Internet through telemetry (Satellite).
Nature Seychelles and the Marine Parks Authority of Seychelles have received funding from WWF to install a radar network that will put in place an automatic field around the two protected areas of Cousin Island Special Reserve (managed by Nature Seychelles) and the Marine National Park of Curieuse. The technology will automatically trigger an alarm if poachers cross designated boundaries in the seas which are part of the marine protected areas. Once this is installed the Seychelles populace will be informed of the capabilities, thus forewarning poachers of the new technology deployed to save biodiversity.
Because of the remoteness of many sites and availability of internet and mobile networks, Nature Seychelles uses the national AM radio station to regularly broadcast programs on conservation
Nature Seychelles has used digital audio equipment to record sounds of critically endangered Seychelles Scops owl and the Seychelles Sheath tailed bat, both nocturnal animals, to gain more understanding of the biology of these very rare species.
Nature Seychelles has used small remote videos in tall trees to investigate predation on the nests of the Critically Endangered Seychelles Flycatcher.
It is using Google Earth maps in conservation monitoring. It is establishing marine monitoring using GIS based on Google Earth maps.
Nature Seychelles has two regular columns on environment in two national newspapers. These papers are available on the web.
· It has a project presently seeking funding to install booths with short digital clips on action for endangered species in the capital city Victoria
· It is seeking funding for a project to network protected area practitioners in the Western Indian Ocean by using wikis and Web 2.0
· It is seeking funding for a project to network all the Wildlife Clubs of Seychelles based in schools on 4 islands through a web enabled social network using Web 2.0 technology.[ENDS]