A report from former Nature Seychelles’ Chief Warden
I am passionate about the Ocean and the Marine Environment but what gives me a buzz is working with dedicated people, creating and grabbing opportunity and watching these individuals grow in confidence and knowledge. Sometimes it is difficult as passion alone is not enough to further a career, but it is a good indicator that you are hungry and willing to go that extra mile to succeed in a cause or career you believe and see a future in.
I came into Marine Protected Area (MPA) Management through the ‘back door’ by being appointed in a National Park as the MPA Operational Manager and working with a Park Manager that recognized my drive and experience. That afforded me the opportunity to prove myself and I am forever grateful for that opportunity which altered my life tremendously in pursuing my life ambition of working in the MPA field.
Cousin warden Dailus Laurence leads a group of tourists for a tour around the island
Not having a formal qualification in the marine environment I had to prove my worth and this I did by completing various formal and informal training courses and in my work environment as an MPA Manager employing individuals with passion, providing them with training and allowing them to grow in confidence and take responsibility for their actions while working in the marine environment. I found that as a Manager you have the opportunity to change people’s lives by creating opportunity for staff as a reward for their passion and commitment which translates into happy dedicated Marine Staff working on the ground.
I was and still am always looking for quality marine training that can assist me in furthering my career and others to better protect our Oceans. In the early 2000’s, World Wildlife Fund – South Africa (WWF SA) started developing an MPA Managers course and my team members and I were invited to participate in this first WWF developed and funded MPA Managers Course. It ran for one week a month over a seven month period at the University of Cape Town. After completing this course it allowed us to better understand the other issues around MPA Management like why and how MPAs are established, Stakeholder Engagement, Habitat Identification and Compliance/Protection, and so forth.
A Hawksbill turtle returns to the sea after laying her eggs on Cousin Island
After completing the WWF Managers course, this then motivated me to want to do even better in terms of protecting our MPA’s in South Africa and also increased my hunger for more “accredited training” which is when I heard about the organization Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA) and that they had developed a WIOCOMPAS accreditation process for MPA Professionals.
This being an African driven initiative and a world first in Conservation really motivated me to try and be a part of this fantastic process to be an accredited MPA Professional, I was then afforded an opportunity by WIOMSA after applying for the WIOCOMPAS Level II Accreditation. I completed this really tough but totally rewarding process in Mombassa, Kenya and was accredited by WIOMSA as a WIOCOMPAS Level II Professional.
As a result of participating in the WIOCOMPAS accreditation process and networking with fellow participants after the event I was told that Nature Seychelles was looking for a Chief Warden for the Carbon Neutral Cousin Island Special Reserve and one of the requirements was that the successful candidate has to be WIOCOMPAS certified. I then contacted Nature Seychelles’ CEO Dr Nirmal Shah and after a Skype interview I ended up doing two 3 month stints as the Chief Warden of Cousin Island.
Former volunteer Emily Corden, a marine and natural history photography student, volunteered on Cousin for several weeks
This experience of island life on Cousin was completely new but an absolutely fantastic life experience to be on a deserted bird island that receives up to 200 visitors a day that have to be taken around the island in groups explaining the islands history, the ecology, about the birds especially the Seychelles Warbler and Magpie Robin whose numbers were down to about 15 pairs each and Nature Seychelles with their partners saved these birds from extinction and then afforded these birds protection on Cousin Island to ensure their survival.
This Nature Seychelles experience on Cousin Island with the Seychellois staff and management exposed me to more passionate marine loving individuals who not only work at saving and preserving our marine environment but as islanders they live it daily.
I have been fortunate to have worked for two of the largest Conservation Organizations in South Africa; South African National Parks and Cape Nature managing their largest MPAs Table Mountain National Park and De Hoop.
I am now employed as the WWF South Africa MPA Forum Coordinator for the WWF-SA Marine Program and I would like to encourage our young people from all countries to pursue their dream of saving our planet by following their passion and using it to work towards protecting our planet for future generations to enjoy.
By Robin Adams