Bringing back the Seychelles Fody

Under the Nature Seychelles program VIPS (Volunteer International Program for Seychelles) a  volunteer from Germany has been in Seychelles to help with population censuses of  a Seychelles endemic bird, as well as with seabirds. Harald Legge, from near Dortmund, has recently completed two weeks on Denis island engaged in the study of the Seychelles Fody, or Toktok.
Habitat loss and other factors once saw the Toktok population reduced to a perilous position. Since the 1940s, when the Toktok was found only on Cousin, Cousine and Fregate islands, the population has been able to bounce back. This has been due to conservation action to repair island habitats and to translocate birds from these to other islands. Toktoks were translocated by Nature Seychelles and participating islands to Aride island in 2003 and to Denis island in 2004 as part of this programme to safeguard the future of the species.

The present survey indicated that the Toktoks are now well distributed around Denis island in a variety of habitats. Dense vegetation can make seeing all the birds present difficult, but around a third of the birds counted were juveniles, indicating a good rate of breeding activity. The population appears to be increasing at an encouraging rate, rewarding for all those who have been involved in the recovery effort - and another conservation success story for Seychelles.

Mr Legge also visited Cousin and Cousine, where Toktoks are now abundant. ‘They remind me our house sparrows in Germany’, he said. ‘Just like our sparrows, the Toktoks will steal the rice and bread from your plate if you are not careful. Sometimes you have to remind yourself that these are among the rarest birds in the world.’

The target for the Toktok is a properly established and breeding population on one more island and more than 2,000 individuals by 2006 – the latter target having already been met. If the Denis population establishes successfully, which looks very likely on the basis of the work so far, then the species can be completely removed from the Red List of Vulnerable species, leading to one of the most important conservation success stories in Seychelles history.

‘I would like to think that the Toktok population on Denis island will one day soon be as well established as those I have seen on Cousin and Cousine’, said Mr Legge. ‘It may not be the most colourful species here, but it is still a very charismatic bird, found only in Seychelles.’

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