Looking around Cousin Island today, it is hard to believe that this vibrant and diverse island ecosystem was once a coconut plantation!
Years of careful conservation has led to an astounding increase in endemic bird populations, the restoration of the island’s native vegetation, and an increase in the island’s overall biodiversity.
Each year, thousands of people take advantage of the opportunity to visit this unique island reserve to discover its beauty and diversity. Unlike on many of the other granitic islands, on Cousin the wildlife is abundant and close at hand. No matter what time of year you visit, you are sure to see a variety of nesting seabirds, foraging birds of the forest, lizards roaming about in the leaf litter in search of food, and a host of invertebrates such as crabs, spiders, millipedes and termites.
This section will help you to identify and learn more about the fascinating lives of some of the island’s plants and animals. The most common species encountered are described here, and each is illustrated.
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While on the island, visitors have the opportunity to see a number of forest-dwelling birds, many of which are endemic and very rare. 5 of Seychelles Endemic bird species are found on the Island. They include the Seychelles magpie robin Copsychus seychellarum, Seychelles sunbird Nectarinia dussumieri, Seychelles fody Foudia seychellarum, Seychelles blue pigeon Alectroenas pulcherrima and the Seychelles warbler Acrocephalus sechellensis.
Cousin is known as a haven for nesting seabirds. Throughout the year, visitors to Cousin are treated to the sight of nesting seabirds. White terns, White-tailed tropicbirds and Tropical shearwaters nest year round and Bridled terns every 8 months, Noddies breed during the South-East monsoon and the Wedge-tailed shearwaters during the North-West monsoon. Any season, be prepared for the sights, sounds and smells of seabird breeding, and even for the occasional dropping! (some say it’s good luck!)
Upon arriving on Cousin, visitors are often greeted by the ancients of the island, the Giant Aldabra tortoise that hang around by the beach and inland in the forest. In the freshwater area of the forest, the shy terrapin might come to take a peek at passersby. And the very lucky visitor will encounter hawkbsill turtles nesting on the beach during the turtle season.
Many shorebird species are migratory, visiting Seychelles and other countries in the region during the northern hemisphere winter when food supplies are more plentiful here, and then returning north in the spring to breed. Listed here are the regular migrants, many other species can occasionally be spotted on Cousin on their way through Seychelles.
Ubiquitous in Seychelles, skinks are found in large numbers on the island. The slimmer species is the Seychelles skink, while the bigger one is the Wright's skink. Both are endemic to Seychelles. Cousin is also home to the Burrowing skink a small elongate skink with reduced limbs. As well as skinks there are endemic geckos - the bronze eyed gecko and green gecko.
The first habitat on Cousin encountered by visitors is the seashore, a great stretch of open-wide beach broken here and there by rocky outcrops. The sandy beaches are home to Ghost crabs, Molluscs, and sandworms. You will find the hermit crab, throughout the plateau in search of decaying matter to eat, their legs and antennae protruding from a seashell. Endemic giant millipedes (up to 30cm long) can often be found under leaf litter or rotting coconut husks.
Bats are only endemic land mammals of Seychelles. Seychelles fruit bats are common and widespread throughout Seychelles
Vegetation in all habitats on Cousin has been left to regenerate naturally, although on the plateau the once dominating coconut trees have been gradually removed to make space for native woodland species. The gradual changes in the vegetation of the different habitats is monitored to assess the impact of these changes on the animals are dependent on them