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Nature and Nurture: the Miracle of Cousine Island’s Wildlife

Nature and Nurture: the Miracle of Cousine Island’s Wildlife

In the face of an ever growing awareness of man’s impact on nature, and attempts to reverse the damage caused by humans to the planet, many NGOs and institutions have arisen as the protectors of Mother Nature. Unfortunately it can sometimes feel like too little too late with news of new species of plants and animals being added to the endangered list, deforestation spreading, and the threat of Global Warming always hanging in the not-too-distant future. It is only when individuals or entire communities shoulder the responsibility for nature’s rehabilitation that a quantifiable difference can be made. And so inspire optimism and galvanise action in this regard, here is a true conservational success story, and it takes place on Cousine Island in the Seychells.

Cousine’s blackened history

Some two hundred years ago, what it now known as Cousine Island in the Seychelles, came under French occupation. During this time, an extensive ravaging of the island’s seemingly endless natural bounties came to slowly but surely rob it of its wildlife, its nesting birds and the once vibrant array of sea creatures that once called its corralled shores home. The waters surrounding the island were severely overfished to supply surrounding islands with nutrients, endemic forests were levelled to make way for cash crops displacing those animals that called the vegetation home, and local wildlife of all kinds were all but hunted to extinction and harvested for ornamental materials from turtle-shells, delicacies from bird and turtle eggs, and lumber from the islands endemic trees.

Needless to say, after a relatively short time, the island became an icon of man’s negative impact on the environment, since its once lively terrain and waters came to represent a natural ghost town. However all of that changed in 1991, when the island was purchased by Cousine Island Company Limited with the intention of revitalising it to its natural state.

Transformation through hard work

In setting up a resort on the island where funds could be generated to finance its rehabilitation, Cousine Island Company Limited began the first steps towards a long and difficult process of turning the island back into a natural wonderland. For its owners, there was no reason why the island could not be a safe haven for its native species of birds, plants and animals, while man could still enjoy the location as a simple observer without upsetting the balance of nature. And so their philosophy of conservation led to the development of a unique conservation-based management system, whereby setting up a resort could assist in giving something back to the environment, proving that one could exist in the presence of the other.

Funds derived from the resort began to be used to finance reforestation schemes where alien vegetation could be painstakingly removed and replaced with the islands original flora. Livestock and invading pests such as feral cats were also removed from the island, since they posed a danger to those creatures who have always called it home. Hawksbill turtles, and Sooty Terns, along with many of the islands original inhabitants were purchased or rescued from around the world and reintroduced into the island, where they could safely roam in peace around their natural habitat.

It has been no more than a mere twenty years since the start of the island’s rehabilitation, and already it is thriving and continuing to return to its natural state. Breeding pairs of birds now flock to the island by the hundreds as they used to, turtles, manta-rays and even whale sharks can be seen cruising the crystal clear waters around the island, and the vegetation which is now made up of purely indigenous species spread in lush patches all over this revitalised terrain.

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