There are three Ramsar sites in the Seychelles, one of which one is located in the Morne Seychellois National Park, which is managed by The Seychelles National Park’s Authority (SNPA) and that is the high altitude wetland at Mare Aux Cochons. This important site is one of six, which the authority will be cleaning for the upcoming Clean up The World Campaign, on Friday 14th September. The Mare Aux Cochons trail is very popular with tourists and local visitors, despite being located in a protected area it is not spared from littering. So for Clean up The World, SNPA will dispatch a large team to de-litter the trail and additionally clear vegetation growing around the ruins.

 

The Ramsar Site

It is no coincidence that SNPA is responsible for the management of a Ramsar site. The Authority is the custodian of some of the most biologically sensitive areas in the country including the largest protected area on Mahe, The Morne Seychellois National Park which covers 20 % of the largest Island of the archipelago, encompassing 7 districts.  Mare Aux Cochons was designated as a Ramsar site, on 2nd February 2010 and has an area officially listed as 1 hectare, but in reality the wetland covers 0.315 ha, it is in fact the second smallest Ramsar site in the world. The site is one of the most important watershed on the island and plays a role in maintaining the biodiversity of the Western Indian Ocean Ecoregion. Being responsible for its management, SNPA ensures the conservation of several species of global conservation concern, such as; the critically endangered Vateriopsis seychellarum (bwadfer) endemic to the Seychelles, the endangered Seychelles Scops Owl (syer), as well as the vulnerable Seychelles frog (Sooglosus sechellensis).

Compared to before 1970, there is currently little commercial activity being carried out at Mare-Aux-Cochons the site is mainly used for conservation, restoration and eco-tourism. SNPA has a team of workers especially for the National parks and their main task is to maintain trails, including the popular Mare Aux Cochons. The team along with other forestry staff ensures that invasive plants around the wetland are controlled. They also ensure that there are no illegal activities such as timber harvesting taking place. But since the most popular activity in this site is ecotourism, they ensure that the trails and surroundings are in good condition for optimum visitor experience. SNPA is currently working with a consultant to draft a management plan for the National Park inclusive of the Ramsar site.

Seychelles became signatory to the Convention on Wetlands (RAMSAR) in March 2005.  The Convention, is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. The first Ramsar site to be designated in Seychelles was the Port Launay Mangrove and that was in November 2004. The country’s other Ramsar site is found on Aldabra.

 

SNPA staff maintaining the Mare-Aux- Cochons Nature Trail

 

A kiosk at Mare-Aux-Cochons

Early during preparatory meetings for Clean-up the World Campaign, SNPA suggested that clean-up efforts target the marine environment as most of our territory is the sea. During the main clean-up weekend (14th-15th September), SNPA team on Curieuse partnered with White Tip dive centre to conduct dive clean-up in two areas within the Curieuse Marine National Park.

Ranger picking up rubbish from the reef

SNPA divers were very excited to contribute to such a noble event- the first dive clean-up to ever be organized in the 39 years old marine park. The divers managed to remove old ropes, nets, glass bottles; all foreign items which do not form part of the natural marine environment. The activity was a great opportunity for SNPA marine staffs to dive along other divers- a great way to build partnership. Curieuse team also took the opportunity to remove household rubbish that have accumulated on the island throughout the year, such as old fans and mattresses.

 The authority had a total of 5 teams cleaning different sites, mostly within national parks, areas such as; Ste Anne Island; Trois Freres trail and Kiosk at Sans Soucis (within the Morne Seychellois National Park). The staff on Praslin cleaned outside the national park, along public roads, where they collected 20 gunny bags of rubbish. One of the most littered site that was cleaned was around the Kiosk at Sans Soucis (a popular lookout spot for tourists, located just above the Rochon dam). The team there managed to remove 12 bags of rubbish. It is hoped that the people that visit the area do not continue to litter. The interesting thing is that only 3 gunny bags of rubbish were collected on the Trois Freres trail, an encouraging sign for SNPA.

Being the only organization to have conducted a dive clean-up during this year’s Clean Up the World (CUW) campaign it is important that SNPA build on such an important initiative. The authority hopes to continue with such activity in the future both during CUW campaign and as part of its ongoing work program.  

 

Beach clean-up on Ste Anne Island

  

Seychelles hosted its first International Schools debates in July 2018 and the theme for this year was “Oceans”. The week-long program was organized by The Seychelles Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development in Partnership with the Trust for Sustainable Living (TSL), based in the UK, with the support of various local partners.

 

SNPA staff and the International Visitors at Port Launay

The International Schools Essay competition and debate has been running for five years, with over 1,000 children and 200 teachers participating each year, from more than 70 countries. The organizers knew that an Ocean Conference here in the Seychelles will not be complete without the children and their guardians visiting the Marine National Parks (MNPs). While many of the students signed up for a boat trip to  the oldest protected area in the country, Ste Anne Marine National Park, another group of more adventurous  participants opted for a field trip to two other marine protected areas in the north west of  Mahé Island, namely Port Launay and Baie Ternay MNPs.

The children from Serbia, India, Dubai, Lebanon and the UK were welcomed to Port Launay MNP by the Seychelles National Parks Authority (SNPA) staffs, who presented each one of them with a complementary brochure of the two MNPs and gave them an overview of SNPA’s works and conservation activities. The  children had plenty of questions and were fascinated by the fauna they encountered along the shores; they spent quite sometimes observing limpets, crabs and shorebirds.

Leaving busy Port Launay MNP behind, with all the tourists, peaceful Baie Ternay MNP was next. It was mid-tide when we arrived, and as we expected the MNP was very quiet. Once everyone had been equipped with coral shoes, the aim was to wade towards “Gran Pyes”, (one of the few places in the Park, which in the past contained human settlement), with the guarantee of seeing interesting fauna in the water, as indicated by the shoals of fish. In no time, the girls from the UK had spotted a large ray. Having an eye for rays they spotted many more along the way. Further down on the rocky shore there were rock pools in which a perfect micro habitat had formed and living there was numerous mudskippers. Many of the adults commented on the beautiful rock formations in the area which added to the charm of the secluded park.

The last item of the day was snorkelling, and it was time to jump into the ocean and explore and appreciate the rich marine life of this national park. Fish were everywhere and in abundance; batfish, parrotfish, butterfly fish, wrasses, damsels and angelfish. One girl from the group had a fun time, proudly showing others the beautiful red and white starfish that she had discovered resting on a massive coral. The SNPA team was very pleased with the “thumbs up” and enthusiasm shown by the children, and the Authority feels honored to have contributed to Seychelles first International Children’s Ocean conference.

 

Snorkeling in Baie Ternay Marine Park

 

Beach safari on Port Launay beach

 

As the Seychelles National Parks Authority continues with its plans to become the best managed protected area sites in Seychelles, the organisation is looking at members of the public, its partners and friends to achieve this ambitious target.

The national parks provide livelihoods for so many people either directly or indirectly, they provide a laboratory for students and scientists and a space for people to relax.

People are key to national parks, negative as they pose a threat to the very resources they are enjoying but also positive as they offer a unique opportunity to be involved in the management of parks.

The Seychelles National Parks Authority (SNPA) has always tried to foster good linkages with the public or interest groups. There are very good examples of how this has worked but there is still the need for the organisation to be more open and allow for greater involvement.

Last year, the SNPA had extensive discussions with the Praslin Business Association with regards to Curieuse Island. These discussions were fruitful and will continue during this year. Both parties agreed on a plan on how to move ahead with development on Curieuse.

SNPA chief executive Selby Remie will have his first public meeting on La Digue on May 26. This has always been in the plans but has been given urgency at the request of the La Digue Boat owners. At the same time members of the public will be able to debate about the Veuve Reserve management. Additional public meetings will continue for other parks on Mahe, Praslin and Curieuse. Meetings are also being organised for specific interest groups such as for all the hotels in or around the marine parks.

The SNPA is also looking at initiating its volunteer scheme. While the organisation receives a significant number of volunteers there is no proper framework. The scheme will have a major focus on local volunteers. The SNPA believes that through this scheme it can provide the local population with additional activities to do, activities which can be seen as a reward by volunteers for productively using their time. The authority will also explore opportunities to allow the whole family to be involved thereby contributing to address some of the social problems we currently have in the country.

Meanwhile, the SNPA would like to thank everybody who are willingly assisting the authority. Through members of the public, the SNPA is having extra eyes, ears, arms and hands. Things are moving but the feedback the SNPA is getting so far is that public expects more. They want to see action, they want to see that their views are taken seriously, they want transparency and feedback. Some members or groups have gone beyond talking and are physically helping the authority in setting up various facilities. For example, the toilet at Anse Major is as a result of a partnership with the private sector, and at present we have a contractor who has offered to repair the road leading up to one of our trails. 

The SNPA is putting in structures to address all the concerns raised so far, for example the authority is involving the public in the design of its various management plans. The authority will go further in terms of inviting the public into the periodic review of these plans (at least 6 months). People will be able to actively voice their concerns throughout the process.

The authority will agree on a modality to give feedback to participants of the public meetings at the meetings themselves. It will take into account what the public feels is best.

So keep watch out for additional communications from the SNPA and also visit the website which will be updated as new policies or offers come out.

We are looking forward to continue working with you, and we thank you all and appreciate your contributions to the SNPA.

 

 

2018 is quickly becoming one of the most important periods in the Seychelles National Parks Authority’s (SNPA) future. So we wanted to take this opportunity to update our stakeholders on what improvements and changes you will experience this year and early in the next year.

 

Firstly, the SNPA Strategic Plan (2017-2021) was approved by Cabinet in October last year. We are extremely proud that the bold changes proposed by the organisation are being supported by the government. SNPA proposes a strategic plan that is aimed at reinforcing its capacity, addressing its resource issues and also enhancing its capacity to leverage more support from partners and stakeholders. Enhanced engagement with partners and stakeholders remain a cornerstone of SNPA’s operations, in recognition of the fact that the organisation, despite its strengths, would not be able to effectively manage protected areas without strong commitment from its stakeholders. The plan highlights the need for an organisational and performance review in order to improve its management effectiveness.

Found nesting in a small juvenile Bwa Blan tree, height of 1.35m, a pair of the Seychelles Paradise Flycatcher had chosen to build their home on a Bwa Blan tree, which was planted five years ago.

From the start of building the nest, daily monitoring was conducted by the resident ranger to ensure a successful fledging.

Many visitors visiting the Veuve Reserve during the month of February and March 2018, had the chance to appreciate this interesting nesting site, barely 1m from the footpath and they were very amazed to see a nest so low.

Children from the club “Friends of Flycatcher” also participated in monitoring the activities.

This is a real conservation success story after years of intensive restoration programme of tree planting in the Veuve Special Reserve.

 Every year trees are planted in the reserve to improve the habitat of this endangered species.

There has been a shift in the species planted as Takamaka wilt disease made the planting of Takamaka a preferred plant for the Veuve unviable. 

With the high rate of development on the plateau of La Digue, the Veuve Reserve is holding the last remaining significant number of territories. 

With the expansion of the reserve (expected to be completed this year) more habitats will be set aside for this iconic bird of La Digue.

This story is a demonstration that conservation efforts are working.

It is also a reminder that if we continue to not take care of the birds throughout their ranges, protected areas will eventually be the only places where the birds will be able to

continue to survive.

The Theme for World Ocean Day 2018 is “Preventing plastic pollution and encouraging solutions for a healthy Ocean”. SNPA and Partners (Trek Divers, Education for Nature, Scuba Divers Federation of Seychelles, Creole Travel Services and Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change (MEEC)) took the theme literally and organized a cleanup to commemorate the event, which is of great significance to Small Islands Developing States, like Seychelles (we are 99% ocean).

The rain did not prevent fifty environmentalists from gathering near La Passe beach, Children from Friends of Flycatcher (La Digue) and friends of Valle de Maie, Staffs of SNPA, MEEC, Trek divers, Creole Travel services and other concerned citizens were all enthusiastic to prevent pollution of one of the most beautiful places on earth-La Digue.

Alien Invasive species (IAS) are plants or animals that are non-native and cause economic or environmental harm. They are of major concerns to the country, as they can now be seen everywhere around the islands. Controlling them is not easy as they are often aggressive and tend to outgrow native species.

In 2017, SNPA started a new project “Removal and Control of Invasive Plants In and Outside Protected Areas”. The project is targeting mainly invasive creepers is being funded by the Environment Trust fund (ETF). The first component was training of interested contractors on removal techniques, some of whom were later selected to clear affected sites.