01
December
2016

In Conservation luxury isn’t important, enthusiasm for nature is

A report from Nature Seychelles’ International volunteer program

Sisters Kate and Paige come from vastly different career backgrounds. Kate has a Masters in Environmental Ecology and a strong background in zoology and has been doing similar research for the past two years, whereas Paige is an architect and spends most of her day cooped up in an office. Kate says they are very close and Nature Seychelles’ volunteer programme on Cousin Island Special Reserve was the perfect opportunity for sister Paige to get an insight into her world and for them to have a nature adventure together.

Kate: When I arrived on Cousin I adapted quite quickly to the island life having worked under similar conditions in the past. I was astounded by the amount of diversity packed onto this small island, the sky full of birds and the ground crawling with skinks and tortoises. I was eager to get involved and what an experience it has been so far, our days filled with turtle patrols, monitoring, bird ringing and data entry. 

 ...and then there's the Aldabra Giant tortoises, the oldest members of the Cousin family

Paige: I had spoken to Kate quite a bit before coming to Cousin and I thought I knew what I was getting myself into, but you cannot fully understand this unique place until you are here. As I arrived I dropped my bags and was told to join the tour group for my first experience of the island. I had no idea so many mosquitoes were in one place! But then I saw my first White-tailed tropicbird, the mosquito bites became worth it. How amazing to see so many unique birds up close and to know I will only be learning and interacting with them more in the upcoming month. 

Kate: The volunteer programme on Cousin Island allows us to work with a variety of different species from turtles to birds, some of which are critically endangered. It is also a fantastic way to gain further conservation experience and contribute to a wonderful, on-going long term conservation programme which allows researchers to gain insight into population trends and breeding success of both the turtle and bird species nesting on Cousin Island. I have learned many new skills here, especially being afforded the opportunity to be so closely involved with the monitoring of the critically endangered Hawksbill Turtle which nests on Cousin during September to February, what a privilege! 

 Collecting hawksbill turtle data 

Paige: I was overwhelmed by the beauty and rustic lifestyle here on Cousin. Everyone is 100% focused on understanding and documenting as much as they can about almost every animal on the island. Luxury isn’t important, enthusiasm for nature is. This island is bursting with life, everywhere you look there are beautiful birds, huge tortoises and of course hundreds of turtles, all of which have some sort of ring or tag, and from an outsiders perspective, what a privilege to be a part of it. 

Kate: I knew coming from a non-research background I was going to have to put in even more work than the others, asking questions, observing and practicing. (I’m still pretty afraid of picking up the White-tailed tropicbirds during ringing, but I’m getting there.)It is amazing to see Kate in her field and how much she has learnt over the years. I will definitely stick up for her more in future when people say, “Sure, you in the Seychelles ‘researching’, it is basically a holiday.” It’s really not. It’s hard work in the never ending heat collecting invaluable data. What an experience it has been to share this with my sister.

 ringing the endemic Seychelles Magpie Robin 

By Paige and Kate du Toit

Categories: Living on a nature reserve, Turtles, Conservation, Volunteering, Nature People, Marine