Towards the end of 2012 Cousin Island Special Reserve played host to a group of international volunteers and staff from Global Vision International (GVI). The visits provided an opportunity for GVI to improve upon their knowledge of the flora and fauna that can be found on the various islands in Seychelles. Although geographically close, Curieuse and Cousin are extremely different from each other.
"To see an inner granitic island in its natural state with its flourishing wildlife was fantastic and inspiring for our continued conservation efforts on Curieuse," said Patrick Woods, GVI Expedition Staff.
GVI is an international volunteer organisation, which runs over 100 projects in 25 countries. It has been working in the Seychelles since 2004 under the invitation of the Seychelles National Parks Authority, contributing towards a long term coral reef monitoring programme as part of a response to the 1998 global bleaching event.
In 2009 GVI extended the monitoring programme to include the Curieuse Island National Park adding Coco de Mer census and turtle nesting surveys to the programme. The GVI Curieuse expedition has since developed further to include mangrove surveys, giant tortoise census work and an ambitious project to become carbon neutral.
Cousin Island Special Reserve was established in the 1960s to save the critically endangered Seychelles warbler and is now home to several endangered species. It runs world class conservation programs and is an ecotourism site of worldwide renown.
The visits began with the legendary boat landing onto Cousin beaches.
"We moored our boat offshore and waited for the Cousin team to pick us up. We had heard about the beach landing technique used to get passengers onto shore and it certainly didn’t disappoint," said the volunteers.
"As soon as we stepped onto the island we were greeted by tropic birds and fairy terns... we even spotted a small pod of dolphins just off the beach! Magical!"
The GVI staff said they were struck by the diversity and numbers of birds present on the island. They were also fortunate to be on the island during the height of the Hawksbill turtle nesting season.
"We have been monitoring turtle population on Curieuse for some years and have read about the success story of Cousin but it was still a shock to see 6 turtles on one small stretch of beach nesting at the same time. This really highlighted to me the importance of this relatively small island in global bird and turtle populations," said April Jasmine Burt, GVI Scientific Coordinator.
Tours around the island were led by the knowledgeable and fired up Cousin wardens whom the visitors said were engaging, passionate and shared an intimate knowledge of Cousin’s wildlife through memorable stories and details.
"Our guide and island expert for the tour was Christopher and he certainly knew his stuff. He talked with enthusiasm on each topic and gave us a whole new understanding of the natural ecosystems and food webs found in the local area," they said.
GVI said it was fantastic to see Cousin achieving noticeable and defined results on the reserve. "We hope through continued collaboration with the Cousin Island Reserve we can increase awareness of the research and conservation projects going on in the Seychelles."