The Seychelles National Parks Authority (SNPA) is very happy with compliments received from the public about its recently maintained nature trails. Seychellois are very pleased with the state of Morne Blanc trail, which the authority took three weeks to complete. So far, the National parks unit within SNPA, which is responsible for the management of official nature trails in the country, have completed maintenance on the Copolia, Morne Blanc and the Anse Major trails. They are currently working on the most challenging one, which is the Mare aux Cochons trail.

Building wooden bridges

The nature trail network in the Morne Seychellois National Park covers nearly 30 km. Over the past couple of years, the trails have been in a poor state of maintenance mainly due to a limited workforce and budgetary constraints. In view of the fact that tourism was and possibly will remain, the main pillar of the Seychelles’ economy, the National Park Unit of the SNPA, aims to use this period of low tourist visitation to maintain the trails.

Through an enhanced motivation of the present workforce and the assistance of a couple of Unemployment Relief Scheme (URS) candidates and soldiers, the SNPA has lately been able to do some major maintenance work of some of its trails.

“Our work started in August, where we conducted a trail assessment on the different trails that we received complaints on. The objective was to determine the highest priority trail, which required immediate attention. After our assessment we found out that, we have lots of fallen trees and erosion on most of the trails. People were getting difficulty to access the path and they were making lots of diversions and that is not encouraged in our National Parks.” Explained Mr Ronny Gabriel, heading the National Park Unit team that is undertaking this major trail maintenance project.

 After their initial assessment, the team started working on the Anse Major Trail, as they wanted it to be ready for the return of tourists to the island. The trail is normally highly frequented by tourists. On that trail, they noticed encroachment by Chrysobalanus icaco (Prin de frans). They had some difficulty due to the construction work by PUC. Vandalism was also noticed on that trail.

 The team hard at work at Mare Auc Cochons

 Morne Blanc trail was identified as top priority during the assessment. There were many fallen trees and erosion along the path. During their 3 weeks spent there, the team made changes to the path, to make it safer and easier to access. They did this by making diversion where there were large amount of erosion and fallen trees that were too difficult to remove. The diversions were marked with yellow markers to indicate direction of the path. The team planted trees such as palms and pandanus (vakwa) on open ground to prevent invasive plants from taking over.

 Currently the team is working on the Mare Aux Cochons trail network. Their biggest challenge since it is longer and contain not just one but three paths. Since people were getting lost along those paths, the team has temporarily closed Cap Vert,e so that they can concentrate on the main path, which is Mont D’or. During their assessment the team noticed that the two bridges needed urgent repairs, as nearly all the planks were rotten and not safe for users. The path from the marsh to Mont D’or junction also require major attention since the trail has been encroached by the invasive, Clidemia and Syzyguim (zanboza). Since there were a lot of fallen trees all along the trail and the path is blocked, people have made many diversions in order to access the path. Erosion has also affected the steps built in the past and these needs replacing.

“At SNPA we are very happy with progress we have made so far on the trails. I take this opportunity to invite interested individuals who want to volunteer their time and energy towards the work that we are doing to kindly contact Mr Eric Sophola on 4224115. We might not be able to maintain all the trails now but we will do our best to make sure that the ones we are working on are up to standard.” Explained Mr Eric Sophola Head of National Parks Unit at SNPA.

 

 

 

 

It was the Minister for Environment Energy and Climate Change Mr Wallace Cosgrow and Chairperson of SNPA board, Dr Bijoux who officially opened the Copolia Trail. It all started at the entrance of the trail, at Sans Soucis, where the CEO of SNPA made his opening remarks, highlighting the new features of the trail.

Minister Wallace Cosgrow crossing the new boardwalk at the beginning of the trail

CEO also thanked the GoS-GEF-UNDP Protected Area Finance Project for financing this redevelopment. SNPA have turned this trail into one of the best in the country. The Minister talked about the impact of COVID 19 on SNPA as an organisation that is highly dependent on tourism. He explained the public-private partnership that exist in this area.  He also wished all SNPA staff and Rangers in the country a happy World Ranger Day, an IUCN sanctioned event that is celebrated on 31st July each year. The ex-director for Forestry and National Park, Mr Jacqueline was also rewarded for his years of service at the Authority. After group photo, the Minister, Chairperson, PS for Environment, CEO, tour guides and invitees went on a guided tour of the trail. They saw snakes, stick insects, the country's smallest frog and the endemic pitcher plant. All were pleased with the new developments made along the trail ( information boards, signage, bench etc..). It all ended at the 800 m summit with a fantastic view of the Ste Anne Marine Park and Mahe East Coast.

 

 Panoramic board at the end of trail

 

 

Seychelles, home to many, is renowned for its pristine beaches and lush forests. With a so-called paradise reputation, an omen is just around the corner when it gets to the rate of pollution. 

Rubbish left at Anse Major in the Morne Seychellois National Park

Environmental pollution is increasing with each passing year, as the same rubbish that harms the aquatic life, mars the terrestrial landscape. Now, more than ever, our planet needs our help with this systemic problem. It is known that even the slightest form of pollution can pose huge threats to an infinite list of living organisms.

SNPA’s mission is to effectively protect and manage designated marine and terrestrial protected areas, including forested areas for future generations with the intention to use them for conservation, recreation, research and educational purposes. As observed recently, there has been a tremendous increase in litter pollution throughout the Morne Seychellois National Park. Why do we human behave in such a way? Especially in places where wildlife are meant to thrive in its most natural state with minimal human disturbance. As an authority, we strongly believe that these designated areas are not your personal dumping sites or “do as you please” places. They deserve the respect that is lawfully given to them.

We, as a proud nation need to disown statements such as “if I don’t litter, then those who are paid to clean won’t have anything to do”.  This was strongly felt during the covid-19 crisis when less SNPA officials were circulating on the trails. The amount of rubbish was unbelievable! These must mostly have been from Seychellois or Seychelles residents since tourism numbers were low. SNPA is urging all users of the National Parks to be more sensible when disposing trash. I quote from the constitution “The State recognizes the right of every person to live in and enjoy a clean, healthy and ecologically balanced environment”. After all, Seychelles is OUR home and OUR responsibility. 

We keep on living each day like as if we have a second earth, a second planet to call home. Little do we know, without Mother Earth, we are nonexistent! Let us return the favor, preserve and protect her. By saving nature, you are saving your own life too. Let us make the impossible possible! 

 

 Hardship brings innovation, sadly for Seychelles sometimes it is not innovations which is lacking, but a need to go back to our old ways of doing things and taking pride and ripping the maximum value from our traditional practices. The Seychelles National Park Authority (SNPA) is one organization who had felt the full impact of COVID-19. The organization who generates over 95% of its revenue from tourism is finding it very hard to operate on a daily basis. There is a real need to diversify products and services SNPA offers but Tourism will continue to remain the main earner of the organization.

Harvesting of the invasive plant in Veuve Reserve

Who would have thought that part of the solution to our current problem would come from our past. Indeed SNPA is keen to assist local business in finding new ways to move ahead, in doing so cutting down on importation and saving our precious little foreign exchange. SNPA also expect to benefit financially or in other non-monetary ways in doing so.

Long ago people used to feed animals with whatever they harvested from nature and from home leftovers. It was common practice for pigs to be fed on fallen fruits, grass, pounac and Vya for examples. The ‘Vya’ was boiled before being given to the animals and is apparently nutrient rich. Well ‘Vya’ is back!

The SNPA is currently implementing a scheme to provide Vya to a local farmer on La Digue for animal feed. The farmer is allow to harvest Vya from the Veuve Reserve for free, but under close supervision.  Vya is a confirmed Invasive species, so its removal is assisting SNPA with its restoration work of the Reserve. This is a win-win situation but in the process the farmer has cut down on his use of imported animal feed, which in turn benefits the country.

The SNPA is also finalizing a second scheme, this time for Charcoal burning. This activity also used to be popular in Seychelles but now a significant proportion of the charcoal or charcoal related products we use is imported. The SNPA is finalizing sites and conditions under which this business can operate in areas it manages. The SNPA again intents to promote local industry and cut down on importation.  For SNPA the benefits are expected to be two- fold; to earn some financial income and to utilize timber that would otherwise go to waste.

The SNPA is not expecting to make significant income from these activities. The Organisation however is happy to do its part to assist local business, cut down on importation and why not promote cultural practices which are sound and sustainable.

 

 The tuber that is fed to the pigs

 

 

The onset of the COVID 19 pandemic has heavily affected La Digue’s Tourism Industry. Consequently, tourists presently poorly frequent nature trails. Despite this, an increase in visits by locals has been observed. Due to past incidents on the trails, including tourists having ended up injured and with some even losing their lives, there was an urgency to improve the situation.

 

Marine Operation staff helping to clear the trail

In 2019, with the financial support of the Environment Trust fund (ETF), SNPA undertook the clearing of four trails, which were in a poor state of maintenance. Appropriate signage was also erected. The four trails were the Nid D’aigle, Anse Caiman, Anse Songe and Anse Reunion Trails. It has now been over six months since Seychelles National Parks Authority (SNPA) last cleared the trails. The vegetation has slowly grown back and trees have fallen across the paths. With budgetary constraints due to the pandemic, SNPA could not afford to pay contractors to do the job again. Therefore, SNPA staffs from the Veuve Reserve, including those on the Employment Relief Scheme (URS) and those from Ile Cocos Marine Park, joined effort to maintain the trail. The team of 10 Personnel started the work on 16th June and so far have been able to clear the Nid D’aigle trail, which is 1.06 km long.

 “We are all so excited about this collaborative effort, a job that is normally carried out by private contractors. In July we will plant endemic trees on the trail to improve the biodiversity.” Josianna Rose officer in charge of Veuve Reserve explained.

The officer in charge of Ile Cocos Marine Park added, “Our marine park team have worked on Curieuse before and we are used to trail work, so for us, it was not a difficult task. As a team we are well aware of the impact that COVID 19 pandemic is having on our operations, therefore we are more than willing to help other sections in their activities”.

 It is important to note that SNPA as an organisation has been severely affected by the COVID 19 pandemic. The authority obtained financial autonomy in January 2018 and is highly dependent on tourism. The main revenue stream of SNPA is park entry fee. Since activities in the parks and reserve are at their slowest, personnel from the organisation have had to shift their operations. The clearing of the nature trails on La Digue is such an example whereby employees that normally work at sea have to take to the mountains to assist their counterparts. In these difficult times, SNPA is preparing/maintaining its facilities, waiting for the return of international visitors.

 A cleared trail

 

 

 

 

 

 

Staff of the Veuve Reserve and visitors are caring for an orphaned baby bat. She was found on Tuesday 4th February 2020 by Ranger Elsie Pierre during an afternoon Tour  with a German tourist, Mrs. Auja Simone. While going along the visit on the trails in the reserve, Elsie and Mrs Simone heard a noise in the bushes. They searched to see what was making the noise and they found lying on the ground, a baby fruit bat, presumed to have been dropped accidentally by her mother.

Mrs Simone the German Tourist who along with SNPA Ranger found Daisy

Mrs Simone, the German lady was very excited to see the little bat which she had described as “very sweet with the sweetest ears and eyes and a nice voice”. Together with Mrs. Simone , the Ranger rescued the little bat , which is identified as a female and brought her to the reserve’s information centre. Mrs. Simone was given the opportunity to name the bat. She is named Daysie because she was found during the day. Now, all the staffs of the rerserve are caring for Daysie. She is feeding on lactosen milk and she is also enjoying ripe Indian Almond nuts. She is very active and strong and very fond of the SNPA staffs that are caring for her. She is actually the center of attraction at the Veuve Reserve, tourists, the public and school children are visiting her and taking pictures.

This is not the first time that the Veuve Reserve, Managed by the Seychelles National Parks Authority (SNPA) rescues animals. It is actually the third time, during the past 3 weeks that staffs have rescued baby fruit bats.

  • The first one , was called KIWI but sadly he didn’t survive –he died after 2 days.
  • The second one, a success story, staffs managed to reunite a baby with its mother as it was dropped accidentally by her and she has been seen in the area calling to her young one.
  • Thirdly – here we have little Daysie.

 Tourist giving Daisey a bottle of milk

 

 

 

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.

Renowned local poet Raspyek set the tone in his introductory remarks at the opening of the 40th anniversary celebrations on Curieuse Island with “40 years is not 40 months”.

For the past four decades, the Government of Seychelles has had the protection of Curieuse, Port Launay and Baie Ternay Marine National Parks as well as Morne Seychellois and Praslin National Parks high on its priority list.

On Saturday 15th June 2019, four days after the official designation date, an excited crowd made the journey to join hundreds of resident giant tortoises to celebrate this important conservation milestone. The celebration began with an official ceremony, which took place at Baie Laraie, near the ranger’s headquarters. There were artistic presentations by students from Baie Ste Anne and Grand Anse Praslin Primary schools and also from hearing impaired students from Au Cap school. The students’ performances were centered around the environment and its importance to the human race.

The Chairperson, Helena Sims, addressed the audience and explained the various projects that are ongoing in the national park. The Minister for Environment Energy and Climate Change, Wallace Cosgrow, addressed the crowd and thanked the SNPA team for their hard work in protected area management. SNPA’s CEO, Selby Remy presented copies of the celebratory magazine produced to commemorate the 10 year anniversary of SNPA to Minister Cosgrow and Miss Sims.

Minister Cosgrow along with Mrs Cedras (the wife of the late Mr Atterville Cedras) were invited to unveil Atterville’s House, which serves as the Rangers’ headquarters, (the largest building at Baie Laraie) and which pays homage to Mr Atterville Cedras, whose work contributed immensely to the management of Curieuse Marine National Park.

Those present then proceeded to view the exhibition which displayed the Curieuse development project and artwork by Takamaka students (produced in a workshop organized by SNPA and Bling Bling Poetry on World Environment Day). Also on display were information about the Leper Settlement, remains of which can still be found on the island.

Another highlight of the day was the re-opening of Anse Badamier Trail after extensive upgrade of its facilities such as the installation of new information boards and a kiosk. Experienced SNPA guide, Jason Bastille, accompanied the Minister and other distinguished guests along the trail. It took the group about an hour to reach the kiosk (located at a 69m elevation) from Baie Laraie. Along the way, they managed to see the Coco-de-mer and other endemic plants such as Kafe Maron and Bwa Ponm.

At the end of the hike, SNPA Chair Miss Sims, had the honour to cut the ribbon to officially open the new kiosk, which provides a panoramic view of Curieuse Marine National Park and the neighboring islands.

On the extensive program for the event, were presentations on the Seychelles Paradise Flycatcher, where the public were taken on a guided tour along the plateau to view the flycatcher and to learn more about the conservation project. The tour was given by the project officer Dr Rachel Bristol.

Global Vision International (GVI, one of SNPA’s partners) gave an outdoor presentation to the public on the giant tortoise tagging programme. The public was also invited to participate in an exciting and educational treasure hunt. After 40 minutes of fun hunting it was an exuberant Henri Rose and team who discovered the long hidden treasure.

Despite the heavy weather, the invitees, staff, partners and the free ranging giant tortoises had a fun day celebrating 40 years of conservation.

SNPA expresses its gratitude to all its partners for making the day a success. Special thanks go to Minister Cosgrow, PS Decommarmond, SNPA Chairperson and board members, Environment Trust Fund, Bling Bling Poetry, LaBriz Silhoutte, EBA Climate Change project, GOS-GEF-UNDP PA Finance Project, GVI, Dr Rachel Bristol, Terrestrial Restoration Action Society Seychelles (TRASS), Mason’s Travel, Baie Ste Anne School, Grand Anse Praslin Primary School, Association for the Hearing impaired, Takamaka School, La Reserve, Raffles and the National Sport Council.