It was a fulfilling and fun morning for the people who turned up for Nature Seychelles' Open Day to plant mangroves at the Sanctuary at Roche Caiman. From 9 am to just past 11 am they took to the existing mangrove stands at the Sanctuary to collect mangrove propagules (seeds) and to plant them at a selected area of the site.
The sight of hundreds of palm spiders hanging onto their webs in the mangroves did not deter the arachnophobes and neither did the darting skinks in the leaf litter keep off the 'lizard-phobes' (the actual fear is called 'Scoliodentosaurophobia' – what a mouthful!).
Children as young as three years old were helped to collect seeds from the floor where they had fallen. All were discouraged from collecting small mangrove wildlings that had already started growing. The seeds were then easily planted in the muddy areas.
Four different species of mangroves, two of which are new to the site and which were growing in the mangroves nursery at the Sanctuary, were planted. Nature Seychelles has successfully grown propagules in nursery bags, collected from the Port Launay area with the permission of the National Parks Authority and with the help of students, that have now started developing leaves and roots.
"Those who came did a fantastic job," said Robin Hanson the Sanctuary manager who is overseeing Nature Seychelles' mangroves project. "They went foraging for seeds with enthusiasm and waded right into the mud to plant them. They really went beyond what we had expected."
There were moments of hilarity when feet sunk deep into the mud and shoes came off and had to be pulled free. Some decided to work while barefoot.
"All areas that we wanted to plant on this Saturday were planted and this should help to increase the area under mangroves and to increase the beauty of the Reserve," Robin said. "We would welcome anyone who wants to come out and help, particularly during the school holidays, to get in touch with us," he added.
The activity was nicely completed with refreshing snacks kindly donated by Jivan Imports.
The Open Day was part of a project Nature Seychelles is carrying under the Mangroves for the Future (MFF) regional programme that Seychelles is a part of.
Apart from planting mangroves, the project seeks to educate people about mangroves and Robin took the opportunity to explain their importance for coastal and shoreline protection, for prevention of erosion, for filtering of pollutants and trapping of sediments from land, and the role they play as valuable nursery areas for fish and invertebrates, and as a home to a variety of species.