Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Shark education on Curieuse Island

Children from Grand Anse Praslin primary school
 who took part in the shark workshop
The Green Islands Foundation hosted yet another shark educational workshop with school children as part of its ongoing national awareness campaign on sharks. On Wednesday 17th June, a group of 17 children from Grand Anse Praslin Primary school hopped on the boat to Curieuse National Park to learn about a special group of fish: the sharks. For this event GIF collaborated with Global Vision International (GVI) staff and volunteers based on Curieuse, and the Seychelles National Parks Authority (SNPA).

The day kicked off quite smoothly with an interactive discussion whereby the children expressed their views and opinions on sharks. As expected, the majority were afraid due to the image of sharks as fierce man-eaters. Our aim was to change their perception and teach them why we need sharks in our oceans.

Shark tagging demonstration in the mangroves
GIF staff Jennifer Appoo introduced the children to sharks, their habitats, and different species found in Seychelles. With the GVI team, the group then moved to the mangrove forest on the island. GVI is an international volunteer program which carries out environmental projects and research in several countries. In Seychelles, they are based on Curieuse Island and at Cap Ternay, and operate under the direction and at the request of SNPA. James Mclelland, GVI staff, explained the different adaptations of the species found in the mangroves, and the importance of this key habitat in the coastal environment. This was followed with a demonstration by Alan Grant, GVI base manager on Curieuse, on how they tag juvenile sicklefin lemon sharks in the mangroves during the pupping season.

A seal or a surfer?
The day continued with several shark related games and activities. With blurred goggles, the children tried to differentiate between a seal and a surfer. Blurred goggles imitate bad visibility therefore addressing some of the theories behind shark attacks on humans. The schooling game taught kids why some fish stay in large schools to protect themselves from predation by sharks. The water resistance game showed that sharks have streamlined bodies to reduce resistance from the water while swimming. With the puzzle game, the children were able to match shark fins to the correct sharks and learn how shark species have evolved differently. The teeth game showed that sharks have different teeth shapes due to their different feeding habits. To finish this action-packed day, the children got the chance to build a large seaweed Whale Shark for a souvenir photo to remember their fun-filled shark day on Curieuse.

The teeth game with GVI
GIF and GVI demonstrating why sharks have streamlined bodies

According to Alan Grant from GVI "the GVI staff and volunteers greatly appreciated the opportunity to be involved in this event as it encompasses the main aims of our organisation. Working with local partners such as GIF to increase environmental awareness and contribute to the education of the younger generation is a very worthwhile endeavour, and everyone very much enjoyed the experience".

For the past year, the Green Islands Foundation (GIF) has been educating children and the local community to raise awareness on the importance of sharks in the marine ecosystem. The project is funded by the UNDP GEF Small Grants Programme and the Environment Trust Fund. It is also part of the awareness campaign for the ‘Shark Fin Soup’ project run by the Fishermen and Boat Owner’s Association, as part of the IOC-SmartFish project managed by Food and Agricultural Organization.

Arjan De Groene from GIF says that "with shark numbers in decline globally, it is imperative that the future generation of fishers, policymakers and consumers understand the value of having a healthy shark population in Seychelles waters to keep the ecosystem balanced and productive. That's why GIF is investing a lot in education of children who will one day rule the country with hopefully a positive view of sharks in their minds". 

Group photo of the GIF, GVI and the children with the seaweed Whale Shark

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