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Cousine Island

Cousine Island has welcomed a number of exciting developments over the recent months including a visit from ‘Squeaker’ an orphaned fruit bat, who was hand raised by previous conservation officers. We spotted him high in the branches of a nearby Soursop tree, enjoying the tasty fruit it had to offer. He is very friendly and didn’t mind us saying hello, although it seems he is more interested in the female staff than the men! We hope to see him on the Island again soon.

As we near the end of the Hawksbill turtle nesting season, we find ourselves wondering which nest will be our last. This season was our busiest to date, with a total of 164 nests! The previous highest record was 127 nests in 2011-2012. We have released a staggering 17,402 hatchlings so far, an increase of 5,195 from the previous season, where a total of 12,207 made it to the sea. And we still have more to go! Overall, a very productive year for Hawksbill’s on Cousine.

We were also very excited to see a tiny juvenile Hawksbill taking refuge and having a bite to eat on the South reef, just off the island. It was very hard to estimate his/her age but it is exciting to see a young turtle using the reef and to question the possibility that it was returning to Cousine, a number of years after hatching here.

If you look to the trees across the island, it’s hard to miss the Lesser Noddys (and their droppings), as these elegant seabirds return to the island in large numbers to nest. We often spot them chatting away in groups and meticulously choosing fallen Pisonia leaves for their new nests. In addition, the Brown Noddys have arrived too, zipping towards our heads and squawking in an attempt to defend their nesting spots along the beach dune crest and among the many palms. In other bird news we have been working hard throughout March, clearing a dense cover of morning glory in the hope that we may encourage the establishment of an additional Sooty tern colony on the North of the island.

Over the past month we have been working on a number of studies relating to the Seychelles Magpie Robin populations. As part of a multi-island invertebrate study set up by Green Islands Foundation we have installed 40 pitfall traps around Cousine to assess SMR food availability. Alongside this, Cousine Island welcomed Dr. Licia Calabrese from Aride, to commence a study aimed at better understanding ecosystem functioning of similar islands hosting the endangered SMR. We look forward to further assisting with these studies.

The marine monitoring program is well under way, with our first reef resilience assessments of 2017 being carried out at the beginning of April. This will continue throughout the month as we plan to survey four independent monitoring sites around the island, examining the coral, fish and invertebrate population dynamics. Each site was chosen to represent the variable reef habitats found around Cousine, ranging from dramatic granitic outcrops, fringing reef banks and patchy rubble and sand flats. Last year saw a dramatic decline in live coral cover after the effects of the El Nino, particularly felt by the fast growing Acropora branching and tabular species. Thankfully however, we are already seeing a rapid recovery out on the reef with tons of small recruits and new growth visible. This is a thrilling new project that the whole conservation team is involved with and we look forward to providing further updates on its success over the coming months.

Original content source: Cousine Island
Original author: Paul Anstey (Marine Ecologist) & Chloe Shute (Conservation Officer)
Original image: Cousine Island

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