1818 - The first known records
The first known record of ownership of Cousine Island was when Louis Pouponneau sold the Island to Pierre Hugon on the 25th December 1818. Sadly, the various land owners overexploited the natural resources found on the Island. This drastically impacted on the faun and flora, as well as the surrounding sea-life, which had made the island their home. The timber of the Casuarina tree was excessively harvested as firewood for the neighbouring islands of Praslin and Mahé.
Large numbers of Sooty Tern eggs, regarded as a delicacy in the Seychelles, were removed (between 8 000 to 14 000 eggs each year). As a result, the Sooty Terns abandoned breeding on Cousine Island. Wedge-tailed Shearwater chicks and adults, also considered a delicacy, were taken in large numbers (up to 8000 chicks and several thousand adults per season). Various crops were planted, such as coconut and banana trees, tobacco and fatak (guinea grass or Panicum maximum).
Copious amounts of fish were caught on the surrounding reefs and sold to the market in Praslin. Many turtles, which came up onto the beach to lay their eggs, fell prey to human exploitation. Green turtles are prized for their edible flesh and Hawksbill turtles for both their flesh and their shells, which were used in the manufacture of jewellery. Both these species nest on Cousine Island.
1992 - A NEW BEGINNING
The situation changed in 1992 when the company Cousine Island Company Limited purchased the Island. All farm animals (cattle, pigs, chickens) and all the Casuarina trees were removed. An intensive rehabilitation programme of the Island was begun, aimed at restoring the Island to its natural pristine state. This included the large-scale planting of indigenous and endemic trees (about 8000 from 1992 to date) and the removal of non-native plant species.
Thanks to these inspiring efforts, the Island has recovered dramatically from its history of over-harvesting. The rehabilitation and protection efforts have been an unparalleled success. Population numbers of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters have recovered to well over 30 000 pairs. The Sooty Terns have returned, after an absence of 30 years, although their numbers are still very low.
2017 - A CONSERVATION SUCCESS
Today, Cousine Island is a safe haven for many species and one of the few granitic Islands in the Seychelles that is entirely free from alien mammals (such as feral cats). Multiple reintroductions of native species have also been achieved. The endangered Seychelles Magpie Robin was introduced in 1996. Over the years, their population has fluctuated between 23 and 34 individuals (the estimated carrying capacity) that are breeding well.
Cousine Island now has habitat to support thousands of nesting seabirds each year (including approximately 55 000 pairs of Lesser Noddies). Twenty Aldabra giant tortoises were introduced to the Island between 1992 and 2004, and many more that were purchased or rescued have found a home on Cousine Island. They now roam the island freely and range from individuals as young as five years old to those few estimated to be around 120 years old. The reintroduction of a healthy population of the Seychelles Warbler has also been successful. From a sad history of unsustainable overexploitation, to being rehabilitated and protected, Cousine Island is a true conservation success story in the history of both the Seychelles and global floral and faunal biodiversity.