TRANSLOCATION SUCCESS: SEYCHELLES PARADISE FLYCATCHERS TAKE TO DENIS

[Roche Caiman, April 2009] The translocation of 23 Seychelles Paradise flycatcher (Vev) birds from La Digue to Denis Island late last year has already yielded  its first success. Two nests have been located in which eggs are already being incubated by the parents.

The historic transfer to Denis was a first as the flycatcher the only one of its kind in the world is only known to be found

Seychelles Paradise flycatcher. Photo credit: Jeff Watson

breeding on La Digue. This translocation had the approval of the La Digue Development Board, The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MENR) and the support of the La Digue community.

The  project, called “Investing in island biodiversity; restoring the Seychelles Paradise flycatcher” is  funded by Darwin Initiative and is led by the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE) and Nature Seychelles. Partners and collaborators include Denis Island Development  Limited, the La Digue Development Board, the  Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).

For the last 2 years the project concentrated in building critical community support and raising awareness locally of the plight of the flycatcher and the necessity of creating additional populations, and gaining support from the majority of the La Digue community before translocation.

For the translocation 12 males and 11 females were transferred by helicopter. The birds were caught in mist nets on La Digue in the early morning and were all given unique colour ring combinations for identification purposes while on Denis.

On Denis the birds were taken into the middle of the restored native forest, removed from their transport boxes, given a drink of re-hydration fluid and released. They flew straight up onto tree branches, preened then moved off and began to feed. They all looked fit, healthy and behaved normally upon release. Some of the birds appear to have paired up almost immediately and were singing the morning after release and the results are the two nests and egg laying.

The translocation is the culmination of many years work. Initially a Nature Seychelles Seychelles-led Global Environment Facility (GEF) financed project “Restoring Avian Ecosystems”  1999-2002 looked at habitat requirements of the flycatcher. Issues, such as what they need to survive and thrive were researched. It was discovered that ongoing habitat loss was the greatest threat to flycatchers. Alongside efforts on La Digue to protect flycatcher habitat, the creation of additional populations was very necessary to the species long term survival prospects.

The GEF project started habitat restoration on Denis and  this has continued under the present Darwin Initiative project. Nature Seychelles staff with the help of island management cleared large chunks of degraded habitats and planted native trees over a period of several years. The island managements initiated a successful rodent eradication program which was the critical step in making the island suitable for endemic birds.

The habitat is still evolving but the proof is in the pudding because several endemic bird species are now thriving there. Nature Seychelles has previously translocated Seychelles Warblers and Seychelles Fodies to Denis island and these populations  have flourished. Last year the Seychelles Magpie robin was also brought there as well and the population of this species is also progressing

The transformation of old coconut plantations and other degraded habitats on islands, especially privately owned ones, has been a huge success and has contributed  immensely to conservation successes in Seychelles.

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