Andrew Esparon (far right) helping to pull a boat out of the water
Nature Seychelles and the Maritime Training Centre (MTC) have for many years had a formal partnership in which MTC students are given work placement on Cousin Island Special Reserve for anywhere from two weeks up to two months. Gino Lesperance and Andrew Esparon are two such students who recently completed their three week stint on the island.
“I have learned a great deal about wildlife and the environment while working with the staff and volunteers on Cousin and I hope to come back if possible,” says Andrew. He is a first year student taking the Advanced Fisheries Science Course at MTC and hopes to be a marine biologist someday. “I assisted in monitoring the Magpie Robin but was especially happy to have helped a noddy fly again; it had pisonia seeds stuck to its feather.”
Tourists arriving on Cousin
MTC students working on Cousin help with the everyday duties of managing the island. The students are involved in many duties including pushing the boats out of or into the water; join in on tour guides; take part in conservation work such as surveying and monitoring the wildlife; clearing invasive species; and general cleanliness of the island.
“We have volunteers all year round but it is important for young local people to gain the experience of the hands-on training we offer on Cousin,” says Eric Blais, Nature Seychelles’ Islands Coordinator. “Such opportunities ensure that the next generation continues to care for the environment.”
Gino Lesperance (right) helping other volunteers and staff push a boat out of the water
“The highlight of my work experience on Cousin is that the volunteers and staff were very sociable and friendly,” says Gino. “They were very keen to teach us a variety of aspects about the job and the environment. I was motivated and encouraged throughout the three weeks I was there.” Gino is also studying Advanced Fisheries Science at MTC.
“I got the chance to participate in bird monitoring which allowed me to observe the variety of birds found on the island in their natural habitat,” Gino says. “I also participated in beach clean-ups which helped me to realise how important cleanliness is, not only to maintain the beauty but also to preserve the environment.”
Dailus Laurence taking a group on a tour of the island
Students who intern with Nature Seychelles later then have the opportunity to join the organisation as employees. The majority of the Cousin staff are MTC graduates. Christopher Mahoune has been a warden on Cousin for the past four years, Dailus Laurence three years, Jules Medor two years and Marcus Dubel (former employee) two years; they are all past work placement MTC students.
Eco-tourism, (Cousin) island-style
“It is really important to bring the youth of Seychelles into a successful well managed and world renowned conservation success project to reinforce the need to protect and conserve the incredible endemic biodiversity of the Seychelles,” says Tom Hiney the Chief Warden on Cousin. “Working with Andrew and Gino was great, to see a passion lit inside them; they were both very keen to come back to Cousin again.”