The media often focuses on officials and other highly placed persons who have the ability to influence events and thus win acclamations. But in many cases the real heroes are those working as volunteers in communities and in grass roots organisations. This is not an exception in Seychelles.
Terence Vel ringing bird in the field
It was announced this week that Terence Vel, a local conservationist has won a BP Conservation Program (BPCP) Award for 2006. Terence works for Nature Seychelles, a non-governmental, charitable organisation but he spends a large part of his spare time as a volunteer with the Wildlife Clubs of Seychelles, the outstanding NGO that works with Seychellois children. Terence makes it his vocation to ensure that the children of Seychelles are aware of the value of their fantastic natural environment.
It was only last year that Terence took part in an exciting project to study the sousouri banan, which was undertaken jointly by several British universities and Nature Seychelles with the close collaboration of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources. The sousouri banan is possibly the rarest bat in the world. Whist doing this scientific work, Terence felt it was vital that young people, tomorrow’s leaders and conservationists, learned more about the bat in case it disappeared forever.
Defying conventional wisdom, Terence organized a visit by Wildlife Clubs to a place where bats could be seen foraging for food. The field trip was an astounding success. It was the first time that anyone on the trip had seen these bats. One young Seychelloise said it was a humbling experience to have observed such a rare and mysterious part of the Seychelles’ natural heritage, one that only handful of people have ever seen.
The award that Terence has received is a cash prize of US Dollars 25,000.00. It is to support his work during last years’ bat project. The funds will be used to build a local conservation team to do more work on the bat and to undertake community awareness and education. Terence says that Rachel Bristol from Nature Seychelles and Perley Constance from the Ministry proved to be the best team for the bat work and he hopes others will become interested as well.
The BPCP is an international scheme started in 1985 by the oil company BP with four international conservation organisations as partners. The Program aims to contribute to long-term environmental conservation and sustainable development by encouraging and engaging potential leaders in conservation, and providing opportunities for them to gain practical skills and experience. It has certainly honored one of our own here in Seychelles.
By Nirmal Jivan Shah, Nature Seychelles CEO, March 23rd, 2006