Seychelles black paradise flycatcher © J. Watson
Where birds are concerned, there is one species left on the Critically Endangered list. It is arguable the most eye-catching and flamboyant species of all, but it is familiar only to residents of and visitors to La Digue. It is known locally as the Veuve, and more widely as the Seychelles Paradise Flycatcher.
Because the breeding population is confined to La Digue, and because its population is quite small, the species is regarded as having a Critical status in world conservation terms. All eggs are, so to speak, in one basket. One major ecological disruption, or disease outbreak, for example, could spell disaster for the species. Loss of the Veuve is unthinkable; and would be a major setback for the reputation of our natural environment that we have worked so hard to earn.
To secure the Veuve’s future we need to spread the risk, and find ways to establish new populations on other islands. Those other islands need to be ready to take the birds – the natural habitat and timing must be right. The existing population on La Digue needs to be secured – any birds taken from it to repopulate further islands should be quickly replaced by new birds born to the remaining La Digue population. As we have seen with other species like the Seychelles warbler, where the habitat is good, the population soon recovers to its original level, filling the habitat capacity available.
The evidence is that the La Digue population is at full capacity now. Some birds have already made the crossing to neighboring islands like Marianne, indicating that they are seeking new homes. At one time the Veuve was widespread on Praslin and all its surrounding islands, but habitat loss, predation by alien predators and human interference pushed them out. They survive on La Digue where the habitat is still good. Increased awareness of how special and valuable the birds are has helped, as they are no longer persecuted by people as they once were.
A lot of good work has been done on La Digue over the years to nature and cherish the Veuve population there. The people of La Digue are rightly proud to have this beautiful species on their island, and it is a popular attraction for tourist. It will be an even prouder day if and when we can say that the species has been reestablished in its rightful place on other islands from which is has retreated, and has recovered to a position where it too can be taken off the Critical list. We have met these challenges before we can do so again.
Nature Seychelles, March 22nd, 2006.