World Wetlands Day - The mangrove that saved an island

It's a cloudy morning on Cousin Island. It's been raining the whole week and the ground and vegetation are wet. The mosquitoes are breeding and biting. Ignoring the discomfort, the island's science officer, accompanied by two plucky volunteers, heads for territories T2A and T2B to check for Seychelles Magpie Robins, an endangered species endemic to Seychelles.

Checking for Seychelles Magpie Robins

Seychelles Magpie Robin monitoring in the mangrove swamp on Cousin Island

Feet squelching in the mud and binoculars slung around the neck like intrepid explorers, they whistle the magpie song. Within minutes, several birds appear as if by magic and are identified by the coloured rings on their legs. The Magpie Robins on Cousin Island have been subject to constant monitoring since the birds were introduced in the mid-1990s. Twice weekly, between 08:00-09:00 am when the birds are foraging for food, island staff visit established territories all over the island to check on the birds.

The two territories are located in the southern part of the nature reserve. The area is a mangal wetland, which connects the land to the sea. It is regularly inundated by groundwater and seasonal streams and has been colonized by mangroves.

It is here that the Seychelles Warbler famously clung on to life on a patch of Avicennia marina mangroves before it was rescued and the island subsequently transformed from a coconut plantation to a nature reserve.

“The mangrove stand on Cousin despite being very small is famous in conservation circles – if it wasn’t for them the Seychelles Warbler could have become extinct before ornithologists raised the alarm and Cousin would not have been purchased for conservation,” says Dr. Nirmal Shah, Nature Seychelles’ CEO.

This year's World Wetlands Day theme is "revive and restore degraded wetlands." It aims to highlight the intrinsic value and benefits of wetlands such as flood control and water purification.

 This year World Wetlands Day theme is revive and restore degraded wetlands

This year World Wetlands Day theme is revive and restore degraded wetlands

Well-restored wetlands provide many benefits, including attracting or reviving biodiversity. The mangal swamp on Cousin Island offers a glimpse of what could happen when people focus on restoring and reviving them.

"Although it was small, it was able to sustain these birds. They became the stock population for the reintroduction of the warbler by BirdLife International and Nature Seychelles to other islands where it now thrives. Today, the bird occurs on four other Seychelles islands and numbers over 3000 individuals. In 2015 it was reclassified as “Near Threatened” from “Critically Endangered” in IUCN's Red List of endangered fauna and flora. It is considered one of the world’s greatest conservation success stories. When the story of the Warbler is told, this mangal swamp will always feature," says Dr. Shah.

The mangrove patch is bursting with diversity. Apart from the endemic birds, seabirds such as White-tailed Tropicbirds and White Terns nest there as does the Black-crowned night heron, a resident bird of the island. Land crabs also abound.

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Since 1998.

Seychelles Nature, Green HealthClimate Change, Biodiversity Conservation & Sustainability Organisation

@CousinIsland Manager


Roche Caiman, Mahe


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