Conservation in Seychelles has a long history, dating back to collection of giant tortoises on Cerf island in the 1790s. Private nature reserves were established in the Vallee de Mai (Praslin) and on Aldabra. These were late made national protected areas, with the addition of water catchment reserves and areas protected for their bird populations. Up until 1992 conservation was restricted to privately run reserves and government programmes. In 1992 democratic liberalisation allowed non-governental organisations to be established, and the first conservation NGO was the Nature Protection Trust of Seychelles. The activities of NPTS between 1992 and 2012 are covered here.
NPTS: Protecting wildlife and habitats for the future
Nature Protection Trust of Seychelles was established in 1992 as a non-profit, non-governmental organisation under the Chairmanship of Ron Gerlach. NPTS worked to conserve the biodiversity of the Seychelles islands through conservation projects aiming to protect species by protecting their habitats and based on informed scientific research.
In its 20 years of existence NPTS successes included the establishment of the Roche Caiman Bird Sanctuary, the Seychelles Terrapin Research Project, Giant Tortoise Conservation Project, publication of the Seychelles fauna monographs, the Indian Ocean Biodiversity Assessment, establishment of the Silhouette National Park, and conservation of the Seychelles sheath-tailed bat.
NPTS was a member of IUCN, The World Conservation Union and members were represented on the IUCN Species Survival Commission in the Re-introduction Specialist Group, Madagascar and Mascarene Reptile and Amphibian Specialist Group, Amphibian Specialist Group, Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group, Mollusc Specialist Group, Heron Specialist Group and the Southern African Invertebrates Specialist Group.
NPTS worked to conserve birds through research, publication and conservation of important bird habitats. These included the establishment and management of the Roche Caiman Bird Sanctuary, monitoring for the African Waterbird Census and publication of 'Birdwatch' magazine.
With the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew NPTS investigated the conservation genetics of threatened Seychelles plants to develop strategies for conserving the most critically endangered species. Collaborative work included a project on Impatiens gordonii with the Eden Project. Prior to our eviction from Silhouette island we were establishing new populations of this critically endangered plant and similarly threatened species (Achyrospermum seychellarum and Pseuderanthemum subviscosum). Work on Silhouette island aimed to increase the numbers of Trilepisium gymnandrum and to re-establish Rothmannia annaeon the island.
INVERTEBRATE CONSERVATION PROJECTS
NPTS carried out the most extensive surveys of the status of Seychelles invertebrates ever undertaken. These animals are often overlooked but are a vital part of biodiversity. NPTS work has rediscovered many species not seen for 100, years such as the Seychelles bee hawkmoth. NPTS also worked with the Zoological Society of London on the breeding of threatened species from Fregate island.
SEYCHELLES GIANT TORTOISE CONSERVATION PROJECT
Project patron: Sir David Attenborough
Since 1840 it has been assumed that all Indian Ocean Giant Tortoises had been exterminated with the exception of the Aldabran species. Detailed research by NPTS confirmed, in 1997, that two supposedly 'extinct' Seychelles tortoise species do survive.
The NPTS Seychelles Giant Tortoise Conservation Project established captive breeding groups with the aim of rescuing these two species from the extinction that was thought to have claimed them over 150 years ago. This remarkable project was established on Silhouette island in 1997 when viable breeding groups of both species were brought to the island. Successful captive breeding is leading to the reintroduction of tortoises to the wild in 2006. This was a unique opportunity to rescue two charismatic species.
NPTS research discovered that the two Seychelles species are on the edge of extinction. Fewer than 250 of either species survive due to pollution,predation and development. We worked to save these species through captive breeding and reintroduction to secure reserves.
SILHOUETTE ISLAND CONSERVATION PROJECT
In 1996 NPTS started a major project to conserve Silhouette; the third largest of the central islands.
Silhouette's steep mountains and untouched forests make it the most natural of the islands, with large populations of rare animals and plants. Its unique ecosystems contribute to its being one of the most important biodiversity hotspots in the Indian Ocean. NPTS successfully campaigned for the island to be given National Park status. All NPTS reports on scientific activity on Silhouette island are available on this site.
One of the most important NPTS conservation projects was the Seychelles sheath-tailed bat (Coleura seychellensis). This resulted in a great improvement of our knowledge of the world's most threatened bat, and an increase in the largest known population from just 14 bats to 40.
NPTS published an annual scientific journal,"Phelsuma" covering all aspects of biology and conservation throughout the western Indian Ocean, and a quarterly nature news magazine, Seychelles Wildlife News".
NPTS published the first Seychelles Red Data Book in 1997 and started a monographic series on the Seychelles fauna in 2006.