Seychelles island wildlife


This video says about itself:

Fregate About Everything and Enjoy This Tropical Paradise | National Geographic

9 September 2017

Frégate is part tropical paradise, part wild isle where a spectacular array of wildlife thrives in the island’s restored environments. Learn more about this amazing property: here.

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Sooty tern migration geolocator research and hurricanes


This video says about itself:

Sooty Terns, Bird Island, Seychelles – 7th October 2015

The tern colony, with over a million birds present from April to October at the North end of the island.

From Science News:

Sooty terns’ migration takes the birds into the path of hurricanes

by Sarah Zielinski

10:35am, June 2, 2017

Hurricane season has officially begun in the North Atlantic, and it’s not just coastal communities that have to worry. A population of sooty terns off the southwest tip of Florida might want to worry, too. Depending on when and where storms hit, the terns could be in for a tough time. Their migratory route overlaps with the general path of hurricanes traveling from the waters off Africa up to the United States, a new study finds.

Sooty terns can be found all over the world. But the ones that nest in the Dry Tortugas National Park, west of Key West, are among the best known. The birds have been the subject of a long-term study that started back in 1959, and of other studies that stretch back into the early 20th century. Those studies revealed much about the birds’ growth and behavior, but not much about the terns’ migration.

In 2011, Stuart Pimm, an ecologist at Duke University, and colleagues attached geolocators to 25 sooty terns. A geolocator is “a remarkably stupid device,” Pimm says. It simply records how bright it is every 12 minutes. From that information, researchers can determine sunrise and sunset from day to day — and therefore approximate the birds’ location. But they have to retrieve the devices to get the data. That meant finding those 25 birds in a population of 80,000.

The researchers managed to find two.

But those two birds had some remarkable data. The geolocators recorded that the birds had experienced a 12-hour day in December, offset by five hours from Florida. That meant that they had been flying somewhere around the equator and were headed toward Africa.

But perhaps those two birds were outliers. So in 2014, Pimm’s group got some more sophisticated technology that could transmit a bird’s location. The new tech was also a lot more expensive, so the scientists were able to track only five birds. But the researchers also didn’t have to wait a year to get the data — or search for the birds among a population of thousands. “I would get up every day and check on where the birds were,” Pimm recalls.

At least some of the terns were flying south through the Caribbean, southeast along the coast of South America and then to the middle of the Atlantic, where they spent the winter, the team reports May 10 in PeerJ.

It’s a path that takes the birds straight up hurricane alley the long way, Pimm notes.

The researchers then took advantage of all those decades of banding birds. They matched historical reports from 1960 to 1980 of wrecked (that is, dead) sooty terns with tropical storms and hurricanes. Some years the birds were fine, but, Pimm says, “some years they get absolutely slaughtered.” If a storm hits at the wrong place and the wrong time, the birds are out of luck. Even if they manage to survive the high winds and heavy rains, they can be blown far off course. Hurricane Camille, for instance, took one poor sooty tern to the Great Lakes in 1969.

In some years, hurricanes may take out a small portion of the sooty tern population, but it doesn’t appear to be enough to cause big declines. Pimm worries, though, about what might happen in the future. It is not yet clear how climate change might change the severity or frequency of hurricanes — and thus affect the terns — but it is something to keep an eye on, Pimm says.

Ten bird species saved from extinction


This video from the Seychelles says about itself:

7 November 2016

A critical part of the North Island vision is the restoration of this tropical granite island under a programme known as the Noah’s Ark Project.
Having removed alien mammal and plant species from the island in an intensive restoration effort Seychelles White-Eyes – a small bird threatened with extinction – were introduced to the island.

From a population of only 25, there are now more than 100 birds on the island … a phenomenal success that has seen the IUCN Red List ‘downgrade’ the bird from Critically Endangered to ‘just’ Endangered.

From BirdLife:

10 birds that were saved from extinction

By Irene Lorenzo, 10 Jan 2017

BirdLife is proud to announce that Volume 2 of the Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World is now available to purchase. Published  by Lynx Edicions in association with HBW and BirdLife International, Volume 2 chronicles the world’s passerines (perching birds), and completes the most exhaustive illustrated checklist of birds ever compiled, with stunning, full-colour portraits of all the world’s 10,965 extant species.

But the truth is, we’re lucky to still have that many species on our planet. Deforestation, introduced species, climate change, illegal trapping. Nowadays it seems that all that humans do is destroy everything nature has to give. But it’s not all bad news. Every day all around the globe, passionate people are making an effort to help nature. And when they do, wildlife is quick to come back. Here are ten species that would have gone extinct if no one had intervened – classic examples of how intensive conservation efforts can, and do, pay off.

Seychelles White-eye Zosterops modestus

On the Seychelles, it’s a similar story to that told on remote islands around the globe; endemic species, wiped out by invasive species and deforestation. This olive-grey passerine was once so rare it was thought extinct for decades. However, conservationists have sought to expand its range by transferring it to other islands in the archipelago. It’s a risky tactic which has worked wonders for many other Seychellois bird species.The resultant population boom has seen it downlisted to Vulnerable in this year’s Red List. A white-eye for Seychelles, a black-eye for extinctions!

This 2012 video from New Zealand is called The Black Robin – A Chatham Island Story.

Black Robin Petroica traversi

Endemic to the Chatham Islands, in 1980 this robin had the smallest population of any bird recorded – just five. Like many other island species, it had evolved in a world without mammalian predators, and this clumsy flyer was no match for rats and cats when they arrived on the islands. As a result, it seemed doomed to extinction. Its spectacular recovery, following intensive tree planting and habitat management, is a world-renowned conservation success. Today there are around 230 Black Robins, all of which are descended from a single female, ‘Old Blue’. Although numbers continue to increase, it still has a very small population and is therefore classified as Endangered.

Rarotonga monarch

Rarotonga Monarch Pomarea dimidiata

Native to the Cook Islands, this monarch was once among the rarest birds in the world. It has been downlisted to Vulnerable owing to predator control and intense conservation efforts. The survival of the species remains dependent on the continuation of these efforts, and also a little luck. Random events such as cyclones or weed invasions can potentially drive it back to the Critically Endangered category in the blink of an eye.

This April 2016 video is called Seychelles Magpie Robins, Seychelles.

Seychelles Magpie-robin Copsychus sechellarum

Originally present on at least eight islands in the Seychelles, only around 13 birds remained on the island of Frégate in 1965. Seventeen years later, the recovery programme began: new habitats, increased food, nest defence, invasive species control and translocation to other islands made all the difference. Today, the species has bounced back, with a current population of 120 individuals and growing.

This 2011 video is called Rodrigues Warbler (Acrocephalus rodericanus).

Rodrigues Warbler Acrocephalus rodericanus

Habitat protection and reforestation, spurred by the need for watershed protection, have been key to the recovery of this species, aided by an absence of catastrophic cyclones. Native to the idyllic island of Rodrigues, Mauritius, its habitat is being fenced to exclude grazing animals, exotic plants have been removed and native species replanted. Thanks to these actions, it was downlisted from Endangered to Near Threatened in 2013.

This 2010 video is called Rodrigues Fody (Foudia flavicans).

Rodrigues Fody Foudia flavicans

Once abundant in the island of Rodrigues, Mauritius, this brightly coloured weaver declined drastically to around five pairs in 1968 after its native habitat was destroyed, which was followed by other issues such as droughts and (as ever) introduced species. Populations have increased as native and exotic woodland have recovered and expanded. Today the estimated total number ranges somewhere between 4,000 to 17,000 individuals and it is trending upwards.

This 2012 video from Michigan in the USA is about Kirtland’s warblers.

Kirtland’s Warbler Setophaga kirtlandii

The numbers of this North American warbler started decreasing at the beginning of the 20th century. Its optimal breeding habitat is very specific: fire-maintained homogeneous stands of 1-5 m tall jack pines on sandy soil. By replicating the effects of natural fires, its habitat has been expanded and numbers continue to increase, although its small range means it’s still Near Threatened.

This video is called Pale-headed Brush-finch endemic seen in Yunguilla reserve , in our Tumbesian and Ecuador endemic trip, February 2010.

Pale-headed Brush-finch Atlapetes pallidiceps

This Ecuadorian bird occupies an extremely small range and is restricted to one ocation. However, it has been increasing in numbers since 2003 thanks to habitat protection and control of nest parasites such as Shiny Cowbird Molothrus bonariensis. Its status, however, is precarious, and continued conservation efforts will be vital if it is to further improve.

This video from New Zealand is called North Island Saddleback (Philesturnus carunculatus rufusater).

North Island Saddleback Philesturnus rufusater

South Island Saddleback Philesturnus carunculatus

Double trouble! These two species have a small population confined to a number of predator-free islands around New Zealand. Owing to intensive conservation management measures such as predator and weed control, the populations are now increasing. They are considered Near Threatened because they only occur at a small number of sites and are therefore moderately susceptible to human impact and chance events such as cyclones.

This video says about itself:

There are only just over 600 South Island Saddleback left in New Zealand. In September 2014 40 were transferred from Motuara Island in the Marlborough Sounds to Adele Island in the Abel Tasman National Park by the Abel Tasman Birdsong Trust. This story which featured on TV3’s Campbell Live follows their journey.

Good Seychelles conservation news


From BirdLife:

Cousin Island Special Reserve – a success story

By Martin Fowlie, Tue, 15/04/2014 – 11:23

This video tells the conservation success story of Cousin Island Special Reserve, a former coconut enterprise now turned nature reserve in the Seychelles. Managed by local NGO and BirdLife Partner, Nature Seychelles, Cousin lies approximately 2 km from Praslin Island, Seychelles. The island became the World’s first internationally-owned reserve in 1968 when it was purchased by the International Council for the Protection of Birds (now Birdlife International) to save the last remaining population of the Seychelles warbler.

Cousin at the time had been cleared of its native vegetation and planted wall to wall with coconuts. Pigs, chickens and cattle had been introduced. Soon after its purchase, the Seychelles Government designated the island as a Nature Reserve under the Wild Animals and Birds Protection Act. In 1975, Cousin was designated a Special Reserve. This included the marine area up to 400m beyond the High Water Mark. Today, Cousin Island is a bird sanctuary; home to many endemic land birds and an important breeding site for seabirds. It is the most important rookery for Hawksbill turtles in the Western Indian Ocean. The island has been successfully restored to its natural vegetation and has received international awards for its conservation efforts and eco-tourism initiatives.

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Frog listens with its mouth, new discovery


This video says about itself:

The frog that hears with its MOUTH: Amphibian once thought to be deaf uses cavity

Sep 2, 2013

French scientists have solved the mystery of how one of the world’s smallest frogs can croak and hear other amphibians without possessing an eardrum.

Gardiner’s frogs from the Seychelles islands, which are just one centimetre long, were thought to be deaf, but the research revealed they actually hear sounds through their mouths.

Using X-rays, the scientists discovered the frogs’ mouths act as a resonator or amplifier for the frequencies ‘spoken’ by the species.

From the BBC:

3 September 2013 Last updated at 01:09 GMT

Tiny Gardiner’s frog listens with its mouth

By Victoria Gill, Science reporter, BBC News

Scientists have discovered how one of the world’s smallest frogs is able to hear with its mouth.

The tiny, earless Gardiner’s frog was assumed to be deaf.

But this study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences revealed that it uses its mouth cavity to convey sound signals to its brain.

The discovery solves the mystery of why the earless frog produces loud, high-pitched squeaks.

The diminutive frogs, which live in the forests of the Seychelles, have no middle ear region at all, meaning they have no resonating eardrum.

Researchers had therefore assumed that the animals had no way to amplify and transmit sound waves from the environment into the inner ear and, via nerve cells, to the brain.

But this research revealed that the species defied those assumptions.

The scientists made recordings of the frogs’ calls and played them back to wild frogs in order to observe their behaviour.

Justin Gerlach from the Nature Protection Trust of Seychelles and a member of the research team, explained that the frog’s call was “one of the characteristic noises in the forest”.

“It’s a very loud high-pitched squeak,” he told BBC News.

The playback experiments showed that the frogs were able to hear these squeaks.

“If you play the call, they respond,” explained Dr Gerlach.

“Either they change position – they may move to face where the call is coming from – or quite often they will call in response.”

Lead researcher Renaud Boistel from the French National Centre for Scientific Research added: “It’s very funny actually; [the frogs would] even attack the loud speaker.”

Resonating mouth

The next step was to find out how the frogs were able to hear the sound.

To investigate this, the team used highly sensitive X-ray imaging techniques at the European Synchrotron Research Facility (ESRF) in Grenoble.

This allowed them to examine the frog’s anatomy in fine detail and and work out which body parts might play the role of the middle ear – transmitting sound wave signals via nerves to the brain.

The team produced simulations of how the frog’s head responded to sound waves of the same frequency as the frog’s high-pitched call. This confirmed that, at those frequencies, the frogs’ mouth cavity resonated like the body of a guitar – amplifying the sound.

Gardiner’s frogs have also evolved much thinner and fewer layers of tissue between their mouth cavity and inner ear. This allows sound waves to be more effectively transmitted to the “labyrinth” of fluid in the frogs’ head and then onto the brain via nerve cells.

Dr Boistel said: “This combination of a [resonating] mouth cavity and bone conduction allows Gardiner’s frogs to perceive sound effectively without use of a middle ear.”

He added that he hoped the discovery of this novel hearing mechanism could be applied to help certain types of human deafness.

Endangered and isolated

Gardiner’s frogs only live in the Seychelles.

“They’re cut off on an island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, which makes them one of the most geographically isolated frogs in the world,” explained Dr Gerlach. “And they’ve been isolated there since Seychelles split from India 65 million years ago.”

The species is listed as endangered, primarily because its habitat is being degraded by fire, invasive species, and human activity including agriculture and tourism.

Dr Gerlach said: “The possible extinction of these frogs would mean the loss of 65 million years of remarkable evolution: not only are their hearing systems unusual, but they are also among the smallest frogs in the world.”

See also here.

This computer animation sequence reveals the interior structure and anatomy of the head of Gardiner’s frog. Credit R. Boistel/CNRS.

Beautiful Seychelles island gets website


This video from the Seychelles is called The story of Cousin Island.

From BirdLife:

Nature Seychelles launches Cousin Island website

Fri, Aug 2, 2013

If you want to see Seychelles nature at its finest, then one of the top places to visit is Cousin Island Special Reserve. Over the last four decades, this former coconut plantation has been transformed into a hotspot of the best fauna and flora to be found in Seychelles. From the seashore to the top of the hill, nature is on display in all its glory.

Each year, thousands of people visit this unique island reserve to discover its beauty and diversity. 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, tortoises cavorting in the marsh, 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, and millipedes.

Now in a recent development Nature Seychelles (BirdLife Partner), who are Cousin’s managers, have launched a new and exciting website for the island in order to bring its beauty closer to a local and worldwide audience.

www.cousinisland.net is the new online home of the island. Here you can browse through high quality images of the island’s wildlife and also find out information about the island.

A history of Cousin is described in the first section of the site, which also gives quick facts about the island.

The visit section meanwhile, tells you how to go there and when to get there. In order to keep the experience short and sweet, and to reduce the ecological footprint to this tiny island, visits are limited to a couple of hours in the mornings, Monday to Friday. A number of local tour operators who bring visitors to Cousin are listed.

Only Cousin Island boats are allowed to land on its shores to prevent the accidental introduction of pests onto the Reserve, so the tour boats anchor offshore while visitors are brought on shore. The exhilarating landing is a major highlight of the visit.

The tour structure is also explained; 75 minutes of an experience which no visitor forgets, conducted in English and French and, depending on the presence of a foreign language volunteer, also in other languages like German and Italian. A list of essentials which visitors should bring for the short visit is provided too.

The Cousin wildlife spectacle is showcased in the ‘discover’ section of the site, complete with a photo gallery of the major groups of fauna and flora to be found – land birds, seabirds, reptiles, shore birds, lizards, invertebrates and vegetation.

The conservation programme carried out on Cousin, involving research, monitoring and management of the endemic wildlife and habitats, is explained in another section, while another outlines how one can contribute to the island’s activities through volunteering. A news section keeps everyone updated with the island’s goings on, complete with volunteer and staff experiences.

There is no doubt that visiting Cousin should be on anyone’s bucket list. But should you be unable to go, then the next best thing is to pay it a virtual visit on the newly launched Cousin Island website.