Tuesday, 18 November 2014

North Island visit

View of the East coast of North Island
Last week GIF organized a multipurpose trip to North Island. The visit was an opportunity to exchange knowledge on the island’s biodiversity by the Environment Staff of North Island. The Protected Area (PA) National Project Manager Helena Sims joined us for a day to monitor vegetation rehabilitation works currently being done under the PA project. Also a part of the PA project, the Seychelles White-Eye monitoring was being conducted the same week by Elvina Henriette and Danny Dine, which GIF got the opportunity to assist. Lastly, the trip consisted of GIF staff training in multiple field work activities.

North Island has spent considerable effort and resources in restoring the native its biodiversity. One of the main purposes of the visit was based on the exchange of knowledge so that GIF could learn about endemic plant and bird species present on the rat-free island. Just to name a few, the islands forest hosts the six endemic palms of Seychelles; Latannyen Lat (Verschaffeltia splendida), Latannyen Fey (Phoenicophorium borsigianum), Latannyen Oban (Roscheria melanochactes), Latannyen milpat (Nephrosperma vanhoutteana), Coco-de-mer (Lodoicea maldivoca) and Palmis (Deckenia nobilis). Other endemic trees and shrubs like Bwa-d-nat (Mimusops sechellarum), Bwa kafoul trwa fey (Allophyllus sechellensis) and Bwa zoliker (Pittosporum senacia) can also be found. Moreover, the forest is inhabited by populations of the endemic Seychelles White-Eye, the Seychelles Blue Pigeon and the Seychelles Sunbird.
Seychelles Sunbird

Newly cleared area by removal of coconut trees
As part of the PA project, removal of non-native plants (e.g. Coconut) and the concurrent restoration of native woodlands are underway. North Island currently has 41.88ha of fully rehabilitated and maintained land, and an additional 20ha of land is left to be rehabilitated. Helena Sims, the PA project manager joined the trip to monitor the progress of the vegetation rehabilitation, and got the chance to visit the extensive work which has been conducted on the West Beach road, with coconut re-growth being removed up until the base of Grand Paloss.

The team on top of Grand Paloss

In addition, a hike to Grand Paloss, the highest point on the island, together with the Environment staff, allowed GIF to see the current status of the forest for future possible vegetation rehabilitation in that area.  

To ensure successfully maintaining and expanding the reintroduced Seychelles White Eye (SWE) population, native habitat needs to be available for them to breed, forage and hide in. As SWE numbers increase, the amount of available habitat needs to increase as well as not to hamper SWE development. For this reason, a SWE monitoring was conducted by Elvina Henriette and Danny Dine to assess population status and habitat areas. GIF assisted and learnt about the techniques and methodology for capturing, ringing and gathering data on the SWE.

Seychelles White-Eye caught in the mist-net
Taking measurements of the Seychelles White-Eye

Another objective of the trip was to train GIF staff in multiple field work activities such as turtle and tortoise monitoring, water salinity testing and diving. Both the Hawksbill and Green turtle nests on the beaches of the island. Therefore daily turtle patrols are performed for data gathering and protection of turtle nests.
Baby Aldabra Giant tortoises and Seychelles Land Tortoises, which are captive, are also monitored weekly for their growth and health.

Furthermore, the island’s underground water is monitored every week to assess water quality as the underground reservoir is susceptible to sea water intrusion. Temperature, pH and conductivity tests are carried out to determine the level of salinity. Finally, GIF staff got training for the open water dive certificate so as to assist future marine surveys of North Island’s soon to be marine protected areas.

A big thank you goes out to the North Island staff for their hospitality, to the Environment staff for their dedicated time and knowledge, to the Dive Center staff for their awesome diving skills, and to Elvina and Danny for teaching us the basics of SWE monitoring!

Eliott, the environment staff on NI teaching turtle monitoring to GIF staff

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