Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Updates of GIF work on Denis Island

Internship Student from the Maritime Training Centre

MTC student Oneal Tambou doing his internship with GIF
One of the aims of the Green Islands Foundation (GIF) is to provide training facilities for young Seychellois who are interested in the environment and who like to work in conservation. Therefore, GIF has invited Oneal Tambou (19 years old) from the Maritime Training Centre (MTC) to carry out his internship on Denis Island. He takes part in all conservation activities, but he mainly focuses on marine monitoring.

In collaboration with GIF and with the Seychellois PhD student Ameer Ibrahim (Griffith University, Queensland, Australia), Oneal conducts counts of rabbit fish (kordonier) on Denis Island's reefs and seagrass beds. Kordonier is an important factor for coral health as it eats harmful algae, and the extensive seagrass beds surrounding Denis Island provide an important nursing and foraging area for this species. Oneal also works on a photographic fish identification guide, and he helps out with the data analysis of last month's marine survey as part of the GoS-UNDP- GEF funded Protected Area project run by GIF.

Two species of kordonier, photo made by Oneal
(Siganus argenteus and sutor)
Oneal will stay for two months, but he likes to come back for a second visit: ''I like to commit myself to preserving this little diamond. Denis is an island that is worth preserving. This unique place with fine white sand and aqua blue waters creates homes for lots of marine creatures that can rarely be seen on Mahe. I'm fascinated by nature, I know I will help to make a big difference.''

All the way from Canada to Denis Island

Jodi and Chelsea making fake sooty tern eggs
The Denis Island Conservation Team is also strengthened by the arrival of two Volunteers from Canada: Chelsea Lefler (23 years old) and Jodi Crawford (22 years old). Bachelor of Science students in Physical Geography and GIS (Geographical Information Sciences), from the Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario reacted to an advertisement that was placed by Green Islands Foundation (GIF) looking for myna eradication officers. They will stay here for six months, to help the Conservation Team and learn about conservation on Denis Island.

After their long journey all the way from Canada, it took them some days to get rid of their jetlag. But once that was gone they were very eager to get started. Jodi: “Everywhere that you look on Denis there is life! Interesting little creatures like skinks and rockskippers greet you in the most surprising places; the songs of warblers and the squawks of moorhens follow you to the office; there is green all over and it contrasts the blue of the ocean in the most captivating way. It is a truly fascinating place and I am so happy for this opportunity to help conserve it.”

Jodi and Chelsea in sooty observation hut
In the initial phase of their project, they are mainly focusing on the sooty tern project and the checking for the presence of any remaining Myna birds after the eradication. However, just like MTC student Oneal, they take part in all conservation activities such as conducting turtle track counts and tagging, tortoise tagging, analyzing data from the marine survey and bird surveys. Chelsea: “I have always had a keen interest regarding conservation and the natural environment. In the two weeks I have been here, I have already broadened my education significantly. Denis Island is so very different from Canada. Everyday has been, and will continue to be an adventure, and hands-on learning experience. This opportunity will only strengthen my passion and aid in any other future endeavours I seek in conservation. I am looking forward to becoming more acquainted with our fine feathered friends, the Sooty Terns.”

The sooty tern project has started on Denis Island!

Army of Sooty Terns
May and June are the months in which the sooty terns in Seychelles start their breeding activities. With this onset of the breeding season, the Conservation Team has started up the sooty tern project. The aim of this project is to re-establish a sooty tern population on Denis Island. As the neighbouring Bird Island houses an enormous breeding population of ca. 700,000 birds and the sooties are known to have bred on Denis, it would be fantastic to see these seabirds returning to Denis Island.

Discussion at the Sooty Tern site with Prof. Feare

The sooty tern project was started in 2008 by Denis Island in collaboration with GIF and Prof. Chris Feare (WildWings Bird Management / Reading University, UK). See our previous posts on this project in our archives. It has been running every each year since then: on an open grassy field, decoy dummy birds looking like sooty terns are placed while the sound of a breeding colony is played through loud speakers. The aim is to attract birds that fly over the area in search for a breeding spot. The results from the last years have been very encouraging with a record number of 3000 sooty terns visiting the area in one year and several eggs being laid, but unfortunately not incubated.
Setting up the Sooty Tern site
This year, the plastic dummies were given a fresh layer of paint to make them look more attractive. In early June, Prof. Feare and his assistant visited Denis Island and helped the Conservation Team with setting up the site. The two GIF volunteers, Jodi and Chelsea, created beautiful fake sooty tern eggs by filling chicken eggs with cement and painting them.

Now the fake colony is set up, the volunteers are visiting the site every early morning. From an observation hut, they check the area for birds on the ground or flying over. So far no sooties have been found landing at the site, but they are regularly seen flying over. Hopefully they will decide to join our army of plastic dummy sooties soon! To be continued...

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