Imagine paddling your kayak through the crystal clear waters of a tropical island, taking in the tranquil sea-breeze while searching for rare species of marine life. A distant shadow appears just below your vessel, gliding gracefully through the water and surfacing like a miracle from a David Attenborough documentary. The creature surfaces, its leathery head brakes the water and immediately recognise it as one of nature’s most endangered miracles, a Hawksbill turtle.
Their struggle in the past
If this image does nothing for you, then perhaps it’s because you are unaware of just how rare a sighting of this magnificent beast actually is. On a global scale, the Hawksbill turtle has faced near extinction as they were harvested for their shells and flesh, their eggs gleaned as nutrient rich delicacies by animals and people alike. The turtles of Cousine Island have not been excluded from this brutal history, but it is around the shores of this beautiful location that they are starting to make a strong comeback, thanks to the efforts of the island’s owners.
In the early 1800’s, the occupation of Cousine Island by the French saw many areas of the islands natural state ravaged and ruined. The giant Hawksbill Turtles, were counted amongst those species of endemic life on the island which were nearly eradicated, or forced to find safer shores to lay their eggs. The tragedy of nearly a century of their abuse left them noticeably absent from the island.
It wasn’t until 1991 that the situation began to be reversed thanks to the hard work and conservative efforts of people. The island was purchased in that year by Cousine Island Company Limited, with the express purpose of setting the island up as an eco-friendly resort, the profits and efforts of which could be directed into the island’s rehabilitation to its natural state. By staying at any of its 5 luxury villas, guests could contribute physically or financially to the island’s upkeep and restoration. In this regard, alien animals and vegetation were removed to be replaced by the island’s embattled endemic life, and in no more than 20 years has been transformed from a ravaged climate to a thriving terrain.
This allowed for the safe reintroduction of the majestic Hawksbill Turtles to the island, where they could now live safely removed from the harm of predators and people. Hawksbill Turtles began to be reintroduced, either purchased for the purpose of giving them a new home, or rescued from the dangers of open waters and captivity. Between 1992 and 2004, around 20 giant tortoises aged between 5 and 120 years old have been reintroduced to the islands shores, and now roam freely and safely around the island and its calm waters.