Cousin Island Restoration and Management

Cousin Island Restoration and Management

Seychelles
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Cousin Island Marine Reserve is an amalgam of conservation challenges. Retaining the islands unique biodiversity, benefiting the community and enhancing visitor satisfaction are the key pillars in her eco appeal. Monitoring of the island's biodiversity, research, re-introduction of endangered species such as the Seychelles Magpie Robin, ecotourism and education are areas where help is needed to maintain the allure of this idyllyic for both people and wildlife.

Your idea
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Street Address

Roche caiman

City

Victoria

State/Province
Postal/Zip Code
Country
Year innovation began

1999

Geotourism Challenge Addressed by Entrant

Quality of tourism management and impact on the destination

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Indicate sector in which you principally work

Conservation/Preservation organization

Geographic location

Coast.

Plot your innovation within the Mosaic of Solutions
Main barrier addressed

Lack of local input

Main insight addressed

Establish community incentives

Innovation
What is the goal of your innovation?

Cousin Island Conservation goals include monitoring of the island's biodiversity, research, re-introduction of endangered species such as the Seychelles Magpie Robin, ecotourism and education

How does your approach support or embody geotourism?

Cousin attracts some 10,000 visitors a year. Travel agencies are responsible for organizing the transfer of foreign visitors to Cousin Island where they are then transferred to the Cousin boat, a measure implemented to prevent the accidental introduction of pests onto the Reserve.

Describe your approach in detail. How is it innovative?

First made into a Nature Reserve in 1968 it was afforded further protection when it was designated a Special Reserve in 1974. It is not only significant for sea birds and endemic land birds but is also the most important breeding site for Hawksbill turtles in the Western Indian Ocean . The reserve is managed by Nature Seychelles under CEO Nirmal Jivan Shah.Biodiversity management has developed immensely in the last 30 years, now standard procedures have been developed to remove alien species, rehabilitate native forest and re-introduce native species. This being a unique island with a fragile ecosystem and rare species, its maintenance and the hosting of tourists calls for highly innovative interventions, so as to safeguard the island biodiversity and conservation ideals whilst ensuring visitor satisfaction.

What types of partnerships or professional development would be most beneficial in spreading your innovation?

International partnerships involving experience sharing and training for our wardens as Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) managers, are the significant liaisons. As we also maintain a cetre in Praslin, knowledge dissemination is also key in helping us share scientific knowledge and research with the public.

Impact
In one sentence describe what kind of impact, change, or reform your approach is intended to achieve.

Hihglight and capitalise on the collaboration of scientists and community participation in enriching touristic experiences and sharing benefits to the surrounding community and local entrepreneurs.

Describe the degree of success of your approach to date. Clearly define how you measure quantitative and qualitative impact in terms of how your approach contributes to the sustainability or enhancement of local culture, environment, heritage, or aesthetics? How does your approach minimize negative impacts? 200 words or less

The island restoration programme initiated in 1999, initially under a GEF MSP-Management of Avian Ecosystems- in the Seychelles points the way to sustainable mechanisms of island restoration. A collaborative effort between Nature Seychelles, private island owners and the Seychelles Government, the program is ongoing. Components include biological assessment of islands, cost analysis of restoration and maintenance, education and awareness, island management plans, removal of alien predators and other invasive alien species, establishment or rehabilitation of native coastal habitats, translocation of globally threatened endemic species and socio-economic valuation of restored ecosystems and ecotourism,. Islands in the programme include Frégate, Cousine, North and Denis Islands, private 5 -star hotel resorts. Establishment of new populations of endangered species will not only lead to down grading of the threat status of these species on the IUCN Red List but also to enhancing ecotourism potential thus inducing hotel owners to contribute to conservation efforts. The program has been financed by the GEF, the Seychelles government and island owners and has involved international partners such as BirdLife International

How does your program promote traveler enthusiasm, satisfaction, and engagement with the locale?

Cousin Island attracts some 10,000 visitors a year. This wouldn't be possible without the support of the community, Travel agencies and other stakeholders. The reason this has been successful is because we have an inimitable blend of Island Wardens who speak a diverse array of languages to meet the needs of all tourists visiting the reserve. Couple with these, the reserve's management plan and constant review helps in addressing all facets and needs that may arise.

In what ways are local residents actively involved in your innovation, including participation and community input? How has the community responded to or benefited from your approach?

We maintain an active centre at Praslin, where we hold monthly meetings with the community. In these meetings, our scientists and researchers share with the community their latest findings and also engage community support for both conservation and tourism to support upcoming projects or raise awareness about new threats to the environment. The community also gets a chance to bring to the fore their key concerns and matters that affect them. Our work and the communities aspirations are intertwined, in the format none can exist without the other. Since we took over the island, our success rate has largely been conctibuted by the active participation of the community.

Describe how your innovation helps travelers and local residents better understand the value of the area’s cultural and natural heritage, and educates them on local environmental issues. How do you motivate them to act responsibly in their future travel decisions?

We have a flier dubbed "Natural Nine Eco-Secrets from Nature Seychelles" which is a nine-point plan about responsible eco-tourism. The flier is given to all our visitors and also to Seychellois travellers. Its an open invitation to every traveller to exercise 'eco-manners' when travelling, respect the cultures of the communities they meet, enjoy the culinary delights of the places they visit, make an effort to understand the dynamics of local communities and avoid pollution among others. Written in simple, easy-to-understand and friendly language, the flier has been received well by most of our visitors.

Sustainability
Is your initiative financially and organizationally sustainable? If not, what is required to make it so? What is the potential demand for your innovation?

Our initiative is both financially and organizationally sustainable. Active partners to help support and build on our achievements are always wellcome to further enrich our initiative. Likewise we are more than willing to share our expertise and 'run-away' success with others, to help them on to their feet in the promotion of eco-tourism worldwide.

How is your initiative currently financed? If available, provide information on your finances and organization that could help others. Please list: Annual budget, annual revenue generated, size of part-time, full-time and volunteer staff.

We have eight full time staff and 2 volunteers. Our initiative depends mostly on tourism with occassional donor support for its financial well being and also to be able to meet all our obligations.

What is your plan to expand your approach? Please indicate where/how you would like to grow or enhance your innovation, or have others do so.

Our future plans are to get more powerful and bigger boats. This is because we wish to enhance our abilities and secure comfort of all the tourists visiting us. We also plan to save on commuting time between our centre in Praslin and the island. Again this is to give tourists more time to visit several community sites within Praslin and also allow communities around to engage with visitors.

What are the main barriers you encounter in managing, implementing, or replicating your innovation? What barriers keep your program from having greater impact?

Our ability to communicate to the outside world on a constant basis is a challenge. We hope to overcome this barrier by hosting a workshop to sensitise journalists and would be very glad if we are supported in this endeavour.

The Story
What is the origin of your innovation? Tell your story.

Cousin was acquired for conservation in 1969; at the time it was managed as a coconut plantation. The primary motive for the purchase of Cousin was that it held the last population of the Seychelles warbler, numbering about thirty birds that were largely restricted to the mangrove woodland, the last fragment of native forest. Early management was low key; the most important action was to collect coconuts that had fallen to the ground. This prevented the growth of a dense under-story of young palms that would prevent native plants from growing. With the coconut under control the native trees began to regenerate, one of the most abundant being Pisonia grandis (Mapou in kreol), the sticky seeds being spread on the plumage of seabirds. Other trees that prevailed in small numbers have also recovered. In the early 1990s most of the remaining coconuts palms were removed and now the vast majority of the vegetation is native. Cousin was one of the few islands that remained free of rats and mice, and hence cats were never introduced to control them. With the recovering forest and absence of alien predators native animals flourished. The Seychelles warbler population increased 10 fold, colonies of seabirds expanded greatly, and the endemic skinks and Bronze eyed gecko occur at high densities. A small number of Seychelles Magpie robins were introduced in the mid 1990s; there is now a thriving population of 30 birds. Between colonization in the 1770s and the 1980s the staple of the Seychelles economy was plantation agriculture; spices such as cinnamon, coconut as well as tobacco, and food crops were grown. By the early 20th Century the plantations extended over most of the land mass of the Seychelles, the native forests had largely been obliterated. The problems were compounded by the introduction of alien predators, collection of animals for food, mining of guano and in the latter 20th Century the applications of pesticides. Under these multiple assaults many native species populations became rare, fragmented or extinct. Economic changes over the last three decades have coincided with more enlightened views: over the 70s and 80s the plantations became unprofitable and have mostly been abandoned; this coincided with the start of tourism, which has provided sustainable funding for islands managing their biodiversity sensitively. The result has been that the Seychelles, despite being one of the smallest countries is a world leader in environmental restoration. Restoration or rehabilitation has been conducted on a number of the islands, and typically involves several stages: • The removal of alien predators such as rats • The control or removal of alien plants and replacement with native species • The reintroduction of native animals The island restoration programme initiated in 1999, initially under a GEF MSP-Management of Avian Ecosystems- in the Seychelles points the way to sustainable mechanisms of island restoration. A collaborative effort between Nature Seychelles, private island owners and the Seychelles Government, the program is ongoing. Components include biological assessment of islands, cost analysis of restoration and maintenance, education and awareness, island management plans, removal of alien predators and other invasive alien species, establishment or rehabilitation of native coastal habitats, translocation of globally threatened endemic species and socio-economic valuation of restored ecosystems and ecotourism. The program has been financed by the GEF, the Seychelles government and island owners and has involved international partners such as BirdLife International. Biodiversity management has developed immensely in the last 30 years, now standard procedures have been developed to remove alien species, rehabilitate native forest and re-introduce native species. Nature Seychelles has published biological assessments of many Seychelles islands as well developing a manual of assessment methods. The organisation has also published several papers on the subject including methods of eradicating Mynah birds. The removal of rats is a prerequisite for restoration, and the methods first developed in New Zealand have been refined for the Seychelles climate and conditions. The final element is the re-introduction of native species, to date mainly birds. Several species have been reintroduced to restored islands in planned programmes in recent years: the Seychelles magpie robin has been reintroduced to three islands, the Seychelles warbler to three and the Seychelles fody to two. Re-introduction should not be taken lightly, a thorough understanding of the species ecology and hence suitability of the islands is needed. Birds are the best studied taxon, and hence have been reintroduced first, but as research and interest in restoration increase, reintroduction of other groups such as reptiles and insects seems likely in the near future.

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Nirmal Shah the CEO of Nature Seychelles is well known in Seychelles and within the environmental circles of the Western Indian ocean sphere. His encyclopedic knowledge of Seychelles biodiversity as well as a wealth of experience in environment management are legend. He was formerly the Assistant Director of Fisheries Research, the Director of the Seychelles Conservation and National Parks service as well as the Managing Director of an environmental firm, ENVIRO where he worked on projects covering almost every aspect of environmental management. He was the coordinator of the Seychelles National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan process and of the Environmental Management Plan of Seychelles 2000-2010. He has worked for international organizations such as the World Bank, IUCN, UNEP, Sida and UNESCO. He sits in the board of the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA), International Task Force on Protected Areas

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Cousin Island Marine Reserve is an amalgam of conservation challenges. Retaining the islands unique biodiversity, benefiting the community and enhancing visitor satisfaction are the key pillars in her eco appeal. Monitoring of the island's biodiversity, research, re-introduction of endangered species such as the Seychelles Magpie Robin, ecotourism and education are areas where help is needed to maintain the allure of this idyllyic for both people and wildlife.