The Sanctuary - view from the birdhide
An excavator, a couple of hours of dredging and several mounds of sand later, water flows freely once again in and out of the wetland. During this dry season grey herons and moorhens have been spotted on several occasions fishing in the more open areas of The Sanctuary as the water levels would sometimes drop considerably in their usual, more hidden spots.
Under the care of Nature Seychelles for the past nine years, The Sanctuary in Roche Caiman is the only managed urban wetland in the country. Nature Seychelles routinely clears the channel connecting the site to the sea, more so in the dry season, to allow water to flow in and out. This keeps the water as clean as possible and at a level that will adequately support the wildlife found here.
Eric Blais, Nature Seychelles Coordinator giving instructions on the excavation work to be carried out
Nature Seychelles therefore recently contracted Earth Development pty ltd, a local construction company, to dig the channel a little deeper while also clearing sand that settles in the passage after a high tide. The excavation is done before the wet season to allow rainwater runoff from main road and sports complex to flow freely into sea
“Back in the day, cleaning and other maintenance work of such habitats was done by land owners living next to them. Recently, government has taken charge of this, outsourcing contractors to carry out such work mostly by rivers and wetlands, except at The Sanctuary” Dr Nirmal Shah, Nature Seychelles CEO explains.
The Sanctuary has in the last few years proven its importance in protecting against flooding during the rainy season, as most wetlands do. Before this site was re-profiled several years ago, it was not uncommon for Nature Seychelles staff to be advised to stay home as heavy rains would render the adjacent road inaccessible. Additionally, the neighbouring Palais de Sport car park is also free from excessive rain runoff.
The Sanctuary is teeming with wildlife
Wetlands are also vital for biodiversity owing to their diverse habitat characteristic. Hence, when The Sanctuary was enhanced the ecological services of the site and the wildlife diversity on the site increased.
Grey herons are not new to the site, but their numbers have increased such that instead of the one or two sighted occasionally, one can now see three to five every day, sometimes even nesting pairs! Other bird populations have also risen, including: terek sandpiper, common greenshank, yellow bitten, grey back heron, black-crowned night heron and the green back heron. The site has also attracted mangrove species such as the hermit crab, marine shrimps and mudskippers.
Digging all the way to the sea
Nature Seychelles strives to take care of this unique site for maximum habitat potential as well as for peoples’ enjoyment and education. Bird enthusiasts, school groups, and local as well as international tourists visit the just about every day.
“Nature Seychelles took charge of the maintenance responsibility at The Sanctuary, and continues to do so through our own resources, with no public or government funds,” Shah says. “It is essential that we carry out works such as excavation thereby ensuring that the ecosystem continues to flourish.”