SNPA Veuve Reserve honours a conservation pioneer

 

Devotion. No other word can adequately describe Oliverne Niole’s passion for the Veuve Reserve on La Digue.

‘Back then,’ which translates to the seventies, worldly knowledge on the environment was not common, and there was no daily social media feed reminding anyone to do their bit for the great green cause. What was done ‘back then’ came from the heart, a genuine connection folks had with the earth, and which Niole certainly had plenty.

Official documentation tells us that Abraham Niole was born on La Digue on 3rd January 1909. As was often the case in Seychelles, official names and day-to-day names were not necessarily the same. Abraham was to be known as Oliverne and ‘Dayo’, names which to this day, he identifies better with.

Niole was employed by the Royal Society for Nature Conservation (RSNC) to monitor the near-extinct Seychelles Black Paradise Flycatcher and to also provide guided tours in the Reserve. Being illiterate did not prevent him from acquiring enough knowledge in all three national languages (Creole, French and English) to carry out his duties effectively. His ability to learn and retain information combined with his passion caught the attention of Tony Beamish and Christopher Cadbury, owners of the Reserve at the time, who acknowledged Niole’s work with the reserve and offered him advice and guidance in order to improve himself.

It was inevitable that he would, over the years, amass substantial knowledge of the legendary Black Paradise Flycatcher. He always walked around in the reserve with a mirror at the end of a pole in order to count how many eggs or hatchlings there were in a nest. This was necessary given that the Flycatcher’s nest is rather high in trees and cannot be explored at eye level.

Given that Niole could not read or write, he had help to record all the data he collected, which he later handed over to Beamish and Cadbury. The duo initiated a reserve for the flycatcher in the early 1980’s, an endeavour which materialised in 1982 when the Reserve was officially opened. In 1989, the land was purchased by the Government of Seychelles and the Reserve was officially designated as the Veuve Special Reserve.

An information centre was first opened in the Reserve in 1993, serving as the starting point of the journey through the reserve, providing as much information as possible in order to enable a well-informed experience for the visitor. Last year, in 2018, a refurbishment project started to breathe new life into the outdated centre by expanding it and adding a Children’s Corner and upgrading the facilities.

The Seychelles National Parks Authority (SNPA) which has been managing the Reserve for the past 10 years, has a series of projects lined up to improve facilities on several of its sites in order to provide a better experience and value for money for its visitors. The SNPA became a financially autonomous organisation since the start of 2019 which enables it to invest back in infrastructure upgrades and conservation activities.

The SNPA, in recognition of Niole’s vital contribution to the Reserve over the decades, took the decision to name the new refurbished information centre “The Abraham Niole Information Centre.” Niole’s son and his adopted daughter were present at the ceremony which took place on 1st July at the Reserve on La Digue.