Flora & Fauna in Seychelles
The early colonial history of Seychelles is infamous for the disappearance of most of the giant tortoises from the granitic islands, felling of coastal and mid-level forests and extinction of species such as the Chesnut flanked white eye, the Seychelles parakeet and the saltwater crocodile (caiman). The Seychelles today is known for success stories in protecting its flora and fauna. Conservation started in the 1960's by a small group of local enthusiasts. Although many of the conservation laws date back to British colonial days, the Seychelles government has strictly protected the natural heritage of the islands for many years. Flagship species, the Seychelles Magpie Robin and the Seychelles Warbler, have been spectacularly rescued from the brink of extinction by BirdLife International, Nature Seychelles, Royal Society for Nature Conservation, Islands Conservation Society and private islands with the support of the government. These birds, once restricted to one island each, have been translocated to many others. Seychelles has 12 endemic bird species including the Seychelles Flycatcher, Scops Owl, White Eye, Swiftlet, Kestrel, Blue Pigeon and Sunbird.
Seychelles is home to 2 U.N.E.S.C.O. World Heritage Sites run by the Seychelles Islands Foundation. They are the island of Aldabra, which is the world's largest raised coral atoll and also the Vallée de Mai on Praslin island, billed as the original site of the Garden of Eden. The Cousin Island Special Reserve, purchased by BirdLife International in 1968, is an internationally-known bird and marine sanctuary which has won several awards for conservation and ecotourism. Seychelles has six national marine parks including the St. Anne National Marine Park located adjacent to the captial, Port Victoria which are managed by the government parastatal, Marine Parks Authority. Much of the land territory (about 40%) and a substantial part of the coastal sea around Seychelles are protected as National Parks, including Marine Parks, and Reserves.
Several private island owners, especially those with up market hotel resorts, have collaborated with the government and the NGOs Nature Seychelles and Islands Conservation Society to restore island habitats and to re-introduce threatened species. These islands incude Fregate, Denis and Cousine. Uniquely for this region, the management of these islands employ full time conservation officers and fund conservation programmes.
The Seychelles are home to 81 endemic plant species. Well-known is the Coco de mer, a species of palm that grows only on the islands of Praslin and Curieuse. Sometimes nicknamed the 'love nut' because of its suggestive shape, the coco-de-mer is the world's largest seed. The jellyfish tree is to be found in only a few locations today. This strange and ancient plant has resisted all efforts to propagate it. Other unique plant species include the Wrights Gardenia found only on Aride Island Special Reserve.
The giant tortoises
The giant tortoises from Aldabra now populate many of the islands of the Seychelles. These unique reptiles can be found even in captive herds. The granitic islands of Seychelles once supported at least three distinct species of giant tortoise. Two of these are currently being re-established in the wild on Silhoutte island.
Seychelles hosts some of the largest seabird colonies in the world. Islands such as Bird, Aride, Cousin, Aldabra and Cosmoledo host many species of seabirds including the Sooty tern, Fairy tern, White-tailed tropic bird, Noddies and Frigatebirds.
The marine life around the islands, especially the more remote coral islands, can be spectacular. More than 1000 species of fish have been recorded. Since the use of spearguns and dynamite for fishing was banned through efforts of local conservationists in the 1960's, the wildlife is unafraid of snorklers and divers. Coral bleaching in 1998 has unfortunately damaged most reefs. The taking of marine turtles was completely stopped in 1994, but most turtle populations except on Cousin and Aldabra, have not fully recovered. The use of gill nets for shark fishing as well as the practice of shark finning are now banned.