"No job too tough," said the slogan on the truck parked at the Grand Anse pier on Praslin delivering goods bound for Cousin Island Special Reserve. It perfectly summed up the mood of the people transferring goods from the truck to a dingy that cloudy Monday morning.
You might wonder why a conservation organisation is telling you about construction material. But this un-interesting side (for some) of running a nature reserve has a lot to do with conservation, sustainability and the environment.
The reason we, the staff of Nature Seychelles, were all standing at the pier on that morning was because of Cousin Island's prevailing environment; salt spray and wind to be precise. These conditions had caused the corrosion on the galvanised roofs on some of the buildings on the island, causing them to leak.
"But even more aggravating was that the roofs on most of the buildings on the island had been replaced, at a considerable cost, barely 2 years ago!" says Eric Blais, the island's coordinator. "It is unsustainable to replace roofing that often, but we must maintain a level of comfort for staff, volunteers, and researchers. And so we began to look for a lasting solution."
This was not an easy task: it was both expensive and time consuming and obviously not the core business of Nature Seychelles. "Eventually, we settled on Aluminium sheets from South Africa," Blais says. Coated Aluminium sheets are proven to be better at resisting corrosion from salt spray and have a longer life span.
However once procured, it took months for them to get here. First it had been the company supplying closing for the holidays, and afterwards, delays in shipment.
Word finally got to Eric that the material had arrived. But this was only the beginning, their transportation to Cousin had to be organised.
The biggest challenge for an operation of this kind is to ensure that no pests are transferred onto the island with the material, as Cousin is a sensitive ecosystem and once a pest is introduced it would be an uphill task to be rid of it. So it was decided that a cargo boat would take them to Praslin, and from here a dingy would take them to Cousin.
The dingy was customised for this special trip with all interior fittings removed. It was left looking like a peanut shell, with no room for anything to hide. This minimised the risk of introducing any pests.
For the skipper of the dingy, his concern would be how much the boat could carry on a single trip and conditions at sea. An old hand at the job, he quickly determined the weight and speed he could go at.
A tricky landing was then worked out, with cousin wardens and the contractor, who had been on the island for three days preparing for work, offloading the material. "It is backbreaking work, and we had to suspend the second trip for the boat to the afternoon because of strong waves, but once the final load was on the island there was a sigh of relief all round," says Eric.
"No job too tough and every bit necessary," Blais concludes. Providing infrastructure, may not be the interesting part of conservation, but effective conservation is dependent on good infrastructure and equipment.