Just another day in the office
I landed at Praslin airport where I was met by two of Nature Seychelles’ wardens based on Cousin Island Special Reserve. Jules and Alex came to pick me up, barefoot. I then got on the Cousin boat that was moored just next to the airport and we took off for Cousin. What a spectacular landing! Alex simply said “Hold on tight!” as he expertly zoomed the boat at high speed straight onto the beach. Wow! These two guys just introduced me to the Island spirit.
My name is Yan Coquet and I hail from the sister island Mauritius where my work was managing an international conservation volunteer program. Nature Seychelles chose me from a long list of applicants to coordinate its new and innovative learning program. This program will be publicly launched soon so I cannot tell you its name. But I can indeed whisper some secrets.
Turtle nest excavation
This is a capacity development program designed by Nature Seychelles’ Chief Executive Dr. Nirmal Shah who, over 35 years of experience, realised there is a large gap between what budding conservationists and environmentalists are taught at University or in online courses and the real practice on the ground. The program will “embed” participants from all over the world in the conservation world of the incredible Cousin island where both training and “learning by doing” will be conducted.
Cousin is truly one of the world’s great conservation success stories and this is what makes the new program unique. What an amazing place. I have enjoyed each encounter from the nesting turtles to the crawling giant millipedes. Birds, reptiles, fish, trees and invertebrates are now my neighbours and friends. Ok it’s not always easy with some of them. Those fodies which invite themselves in my kitchen looking for the good food I cooked sometimes leave a small souvenir on the table, in the plate or on the windows.
Then there are the skinks that are always around for dinner. But we are improving our mutual relationship. I had my first walk ‘towards nowhere’ on the island and happily got lost to end on different landscapes. Hills, rocks, limestone beach, ground full of bird burrows, mangroves and forest again. All these different ecosystems on a single small island. During the night you look up and have an amazing starry sky but just before that you get a wonderful sunset when looking west and before that you get incredible snorkelling moments with sharks, rays and turtles visible underwater. It feels like we are in a 360 degree, 3D paradise world!
Getting to know my new neighbours
Ok let’s learn now! All this beautiful wildlife needs protection. Many monitoring programs help understand this rich biodiversity. With the help of Cheryl, our Science Coordinator and some volunteers, I have been introduced to the daily conservation field work. Patrolling for turtle nests, monitoring for seabird census and seabird breeding success, land bird census, invertebrates sampling, Seychelles magpie-robin tracking and adding to that meeting with international scientists who are researching Seychelles warblers and seabirds.
Learning happens every day by getting trained or by observation. It is just not possible to get bored on this island. When you think you’ve seen it all, Bam! Another surprise and discovery waits for you somewhere. I’m keeping my eyes wide open to take the most of this lively theatre of life. I am convinced that the international participants we will be hosting here for the new conservation learning program will feel the same.
By Yan Coquet
Cousin Island Special Reserve