What happens to conservation of our wild places in the rainy season?

It is said that water is the essence of life. There is no doubt that it is abundant during the rainy season.

On nature trails and nesting beaches fallen trees and debris must be regularly cleared

Rains rejuvenate nature and replenish our water supply, but they can also present a myriad of obstacles for nature reserve managers during this time of year. Whether it is falling trees or flooding marshes, the challenges are diverse and demanding, and they require quick measures to be taken to overcome.

The abundance of mosquitoes during the rainy season is one of the most significant challenges that must be addressed. The pesky insects thrive in damp environments, causing discomfort and annoyance to all.

Due to an increase in mosquitoes over the past few months, Nature Seychelles, the managers of Cousin Island Special Reserve, have decided to pause all conservation activity on the island for an extended period.

It is unlike anything we have seen. We are accustomed to mosquito presence in the Special Reserve. But now very large swarms of mosquitoes chase you around no matter where you go in the forest, so our team is unable to carry out conservation activities. Counting turtle eggs or removing invasive species is impossible when voracious mosquitoes are swarming to get your blood. Visitors also complain; despite copious repellent use, mosquitoes overwhelm everyone,” says Eric Blais, Nature Seychelles' technical and operations manager.

Being a Special Reserve, the island is limited in mosquito control measures. “We cannot fumigate, for instance, as that would harm biodiversity,” Eric says.

“It's a tough situation, and we are open to any idea that can help control mosquitoes responsibly without harming the wildlife we protect. We do not advocate fortress conservation - we still want people to visit these areas to enjoy the nature,” adds the NGO's Chief Executive, Dr Nirmal Shah.

Another challenge is reduced sunlight hours during the rainy season, limiting solar energy use. Despite the recent upgrade to Cousin's solar power array, island staff have had to cope with fewer hours of electricity, says Eric.

Conservation activities become increasingly challenging during heavy rainfall. Heavy rainfall interferes with wildlife monitoring and data collection. Investing in waterproof equipment and modifying research schedules is necessary to ensure the continuity of these activities, says Eric.

Reduced sunlight hours during the rainy season limit solar energy use

Reduced sunlight hours during the rainy season limit solar energy use

On the other hand, Hawksbill turtles continue to nest. However, their nests become vulnerable during this time. Excessive rainfall floods nests and leads to egg and hatchling loss. “As in the past, we are employing measures, such as relocating nests, to mitigate the impact of waterlogged nests on turtle populations,” says Chris Tagg, the island's conservation manager. "Nests and chicks of seabirds are also affected. Unfortunately, we cannot do much in this regard. Some species of seabirds lay twice within a breeding season to compensate for the loss."

Heavy rainfall results in trees falling. On nature trails and nesting beaches, fallen trees and debris must be regularly cleared, and some of the weaker trees near infrastructure, such as staff houses, must be trimmed.

Despite all these trials and tribulations, Cousin Island Special Reserve staff and volunteers are soldiering on.

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Since 1998.

Seychelles Nature, Green HealthClimate Change, Biodiversity Conservation & Sustainability Organisation

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Centre for Environment & Education

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P.O. Box 1310, Mahe, Seychelles

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Email: nature@seychelles.net