AND SO, GOODBYE GUY

Nirmal's precious memories and reflections on one of Seychelles top conservationists.

I remember Guy Lionnet in his office at the Botanical Gardens. For a time my office was next to his and we often talked about our mutual passions including butterflies, shells and Seychelles in general. The last time I really talked to him was in 1998 when were discussing a new bibliography of Seychelles. Recently he became bedridden and developed an infection. He passed away on Friday the 30th of November.

 If we see far today it is because we are standing on the shoulders of giants like Guy Lionnet. It’s a pity so many of today’s environmental professionals know little about him. And yet his contributions are substantial; from institutional building to scientific discoveries, from seminal lectures to landmark books and papers. One of his greatest contributions was the creation, with my father and Serge Savy, of the Seychelles Society, the first NGO in Seychelles to promote conservation of our environmental and cultural heritage

 Guy became the first non-colonial Director of Agriculture in 1945. His wide interests spanned everything from insects to plants, from historical writings about the Seychelles flora and fauna to collection of the latest scientific papers. Like my father, he was a collector of things: ideas, books, papers, specimens, stamps, and so forth. He was indeed a Renaissance Man.

 He once showed me his butterfly collection and we argued about the food plant of some of them since I had conducted research on these insects. One day he burst into my office at the Department of Environment, angry because I had not provided him, the Chairman of the Seychelles Island Foundation, the Minutes of the Foundation’s AGM a week after the meeting. This outburst was typical of the man. He was deeply taken up by his work which was also his hobby. Genevieve, one of his daughters, explains that he was meticulous, almost to a fault.

 Nan Lionnet tells me her father was passionate about his beliefs and sometimes an intellectual purist. This explains my heated discussions with him when he was the Chairman of  the Seychelles National Environment  Commission (SNEC) and I was the Director of the Conservation and National Parks service. But he was always kind and was a pleasure to talk to because he was a fountainhead of knowledge.

 He wrote many popular articles to educate the Seychellois public. This fact makes him the first environmental educator in our country. Many endemic species have been named after him and he won the United Nations Environment Programme’s Global 500 Award for environmental achievement. If there was a national award in Seychelles, Guy Lionnet, of all people, deserves it.[ENDS]

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