Groups of school children and clubs as well as international environmental groups and individuals have in recent weeks been streaming into the Sanctuary at Roche Caiman to enjoy the beauty and biodiversity that continues to billow out of the site. In the last month alone, there have been six visits from schools, including the wildlife and holiday clubs and a visit from the Collaborative Actions for Sustainable Tourism (COAST) project.
Two years ago, Nature Seychelles embarked on a one and a half year wetland rehabilitation project at the Sanctuary with co-funding from the Mangroves For the Future (MFF) initiative and work carried out with the generous support of Sun Excavations of Mahe. The wetlands is not a natural site yet is now home to an ever increasing diversity of nature, both fauna and flora.
"I caught a water spider!" "Look it's a crab!" "I caught a tadpole""What bird is that?" These are but a few of the excited comments and questions students and club members from local schools can be heard shouting out as they spot, net and release some of the creatures of this habitat, even though there are actually no water spiders and the tadpoles were actually little fish. Although they are usually asked to be quiet so as not to disturb or frighten off the wildlife, especially the birds, they can hardly ever contain their excitement when one of these creatures pops up into view or gets caught in their nets. A one inch fish will usually merit a thrilled "I caught a huge fish!
After a brief introduction of the Sanctuary by their teacher or by Nature Seychelles' eco-health coordinator, children visiting the site are usually divided into two or three groups, given nets for catching fish and dragon flies, or taken to the bird hide for bird watching.
"We used to see a grey heron here every day, now we see three to four every day." says Robin Hanson, Nature Seychelles eco-health coordinator of the increasing number of birds spotted at the Sanctuary.
The numbers of other birds such as moorhen, green back heron, terek sandpiper and common green shank have also grown. The black-crowned night heron and the yellow bitten, rare Seychelles birds, are now seen every day at the Sanctuary and believed to be breeding at the site.
"The site is now so attractive to mangrove species that marine hermit crab, marine shrimps and mud skippers are now adopting the site as their new home," says Robin.
The site is unique in that it has been designed to maximize habitat potential as well as being a natural attraction for people's enjoyment and education. Children can learn of the beauty and benefits of nature while planting mangrove seeds, and local as well as international tourists coming to the site can simply enjoy the splendor of the life teeming in the Sanctuary.
The Sanctuary can also serve as a demonstration site for improvement and management of wetlands for those who wish to replicate the model.school
Photos: 1) A student planting mangrove seeds 2) International School Seychelles students get ready to go bird watching 3) Grey heron at the Sanctuary -photo by Dao Nguyen 4) They are always amazed by the catch in their net