Cousin Island Special Reserve is recognised as a leading example of genuine eco-tourism and small island conservation management that demonstrably works. We aim to share this expertise globally, and also to draw upon the knowledge and experience of others to help our local staff. To do this we have created a scheme we’ve called the Experience Exchange Programme.
We first advertised the scheme earlier this year, using networks of conservation contacts. We were optimistic that this would draw a good response, but in fact we have been inundated with applications. This reflects the interest in Seychelles conservation worldwide.
We have now drawn up a list for the next two years that will place conservation experts from diverse backgrounds and many different countries on Cousin Island for a maximum period of three-months. While here, they will exchange ideas, information, experience and wise practice with local staff. They, or the institutions they work for, pay for their trip here.
Laura Seaton from a Nature Reserve in Scotland has recently completed her three-month stay as the first visiting warden, and she sent this to us as she departed.
|Laura Seaton, the first exchange warden on Cousin, monitoring tropic birds © Harald Legge
‘Wanted: Visiting Warden, Cousin Island, said the advert on the website. I had the qualifications needed, and, let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to spend three months in Seychelles? So I applied, never thinking I would be successful. But here I am, at the end of my three months’ experience on Cousin.
Cousin is a beautiful island. All your senses are awoken when you set foot on the island. You can’t help but be impressed by the sights and sounds of all those birds, lizards, tortoises, etc. There wasn’t a day when I didn’t think what a great Reserve this is to work on. The work is varied, from welcoming and guiding visitors, vegetation management, to ringing birds and beach cleaning.
I’m going to miss so many things: the stars, the sound of the sea, the constant noise from the Noddies (Makwas and Keleks), the whistle from the Magpie-robin (Pi Santez), to name just a few. My colleagues have been fantastic, maybe a bit unsure of this strange Scottish girl coming to their island at first. But I think I can safely say that I made some really good friends by the end. Everyone was really friendly and helpful, and I’ve definitely got lots of good experiences to take back with me. I hope my Seychellois colleagues have also learnt from me.
I would love to come back and do it again. Already the next visiting warden has taken my place. I’d like to say a big thank you to all the staff on Cousin. Keep up the good work – you never know, I might be able to come back one day?
Footnote: Our Regar article of 28 July on the Tortoise said to be 255 years old attracted the interest of many readers, as we hoped. The possibility that the tortoise was taken from Seychelles as long ago as this, as stated by the Alipore Zoo in India, raises more intriguing questions about early knowledge of the natural history of Seychelles, which we hope to explore further in a future Regar article.