Seychelles’ longest, unbroken partnership with an international environmental NGO has been with BirdLife International, the world’s oldest nature conservation partnership. BirdLife celebrates its centennial this year. This is a cause for celebration in Seychelles too! BirdLife has had a permanent presence in Seychelles since 1968 and Nature Seychelles has been the Seychelles partner of BirdLife for over 20 years.
Cousin, a former coconut plantation, was transformed into a nature reserve
A century ago, visionary conservationists concerned about the plight of the world’s birds and the wider environment came together to form an international movement. From a handful of national organisations, it steadily gathered momentum, spread its wings, and eventually evolved into a powerful global voice for nature now known as BirdLife International. The organisation has come a long way; 117 BirdLife Partners now work together to protect birds and habitats on every continent. Active conservationists once numbered in dozens, are now counted in millions.
BirdLife's (then known as International Council for Bird Preservation - ICBP) relationship with Seychelles formally started in 1968 with the purchase of Cousin Island, although research and other activities had begun prior to that time. Back in the 60s, conservationists were worried about the fate of endemic Seychelles birds, which were in danger of extinction. Five Seychelles birds had been included in the Red Book as being in danger of extinction. This included the Seychelles warbler, flycatcher, scops owl, fody, and magpie robin. On Cousin Island, only 26 Seychelles warblers survived. ICBP's purchase of the island was instrumental in saving this bird as well as introducing modern conservation practices in Seychelles. The Cousin Scientific Administrators were often called upon by the government as they were usually the only conservation scientists in the country.
Nature Seychelles - the Seychelles NGO that manages Cousin, and BirdLife's Seychelles Partner - was established in 1998
The coconut plantation in Cousin was transformed into a nature reserve, enabling the warbler to thrive. Birdlife and Nature Seychelles then transferred this bird to other predator-free islands. Today it thrives on 5 other islands. Similarly, Birdlife helped save the Seychelles magpie robin. It undertook an intensive habitat rehabilitation programme on Fregate Island, the last refuge of the bird at the time. The bird was then introduced to Cousin and Cousine Islands. Nature Seychelles later translocated this bird to Aride and Denis Islands. BirdLife put in place other research and conservation programmes for birds with the help of others such as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), the Seychelles government, and private islands, which has resulted in the down-listing of other Seychelles birds on the RedList. Important Bird Areas (IBAs) - the criteria given by BirdLife to areas that are important for bird conservation - were identified, and avian ecosystems on key islands were restored.
Nature Seychelles leads other innovative programmes such as coral reef restoration
BirdLife's unbroken relationship with the country makes Seychelles the only place, other than the UK, to hold this honour. And through the involvement of local people, Nature Seychelles - the Seychelles NGO that manages Cousin - was established in 1998 with funding and technical assistance from BirdLife and its UK Partner the RSPB. Today Nature Seychelles also leads innovative programmes such as the coral reef restoration that lend themselves to replication, combating climate change and training future conservationists through the Conservation Boot Camp. All of its projects are long-term and tangible, and they all stem from the belief in the power of positive change.
We've been an active BirdLife partner and have achieved many successes together. This 100th anniversary is an opportunity to reflect. BirdLife has contributed to many things in this country, from managing the Veuve Reserve to providing scholarships and educational products. Its research in Seychelles broke new ground and showed the world how to save island species with the involvement and leadership of local people – that’s why the results are so long-lived and successful," says Dr. Nirmal Shah, Nature Seychelles’ CEO who himself was the ICBP Representative for Seychelles for 10 years before the creation of the NGO.