Coast KZN

05 Aug 2018

From my Hide: Seychelles swops debt relief for marine reserves

David Holt-Biddle (South Coast Herald) Picture: Seychelles (Pixabay)

In the 1990s about a third of the land area of the islands was under conservation protection, but that has changed and now about 50 percent.

In what is almost assuredly a unique swap, the Seychelles has agreed to create two huge marine reserves in exchange for some relief on the country’s national debt. The new reserves will cover a third of the Seychelles surrounding the Indian Ocean and the first reserve, of some 210 000 square kilometres, is already in the making.

This first reserve will cover the Aldabra group of islands way to the south of the main island group. The other side of the deal will mean that about R330-million of the Seychelles’ national debt will be paid off by an American group known as the Nature Conservancy.*

I have been to the Seychelles three times on assignment, always to cover conservation-related issues. I was fortunate enough to see much of the main island Mahé and outlying islands like Praslin, La Digue, Aride and Bird Island.

In those days (the 1990s) about a third of the land area of the islands was under conservation protection. That has changed, it is now about 50 percent. That is a remarkable achievement, to be envied by everyone.

It would seem that there can never be enough bird books. The latest addition to the birder’s bookshelf is ‘Birding in South Africa’s National Parks’ by Rob Little.

If you are lucky enough to be a regular visitor to one or more of our national parks, then this book is for you.

It covers all 19 of the parks, featuring over two thirds of South Africa’s total bird species from Table Mountain NP in the south to Mapungubwe NP in the north; and from the Richtersveld in the west to the Kruger in the east and all the others in between.

Rob Little is very well qualified as the author, having been in wildlife conservation, usually involving birds, all his professional life, while photographer, Maans Booysen, is equally well qualified, being a specialist birding guide for the whole of southern Africa, and, how’s this? Maans has spotted 894 bird species throughout the sub-continent and photographed 885 of them! The book is a useful addition to the back seat library of any birders’ safari vehicle.**

Staying with parks, excellent news from South America is that Chile has created no fewer than five new national parks in the southern province of Patagonia. The parks include large areas of government-owned land and more than 400 000ha donated by the Tompkins family, founders of an outdoor clothing company in the United States of America. The Tompkins spent years buying up available land in Patagonia for conservation projects. What wonderful people.

* The Week: The Best of the British and Foreign Media.
** Birding in South Africa’s National Parks, Rob Little, Jacana, Johannesburg, 2018.