February 12, 2011

Conservationists and Giant Tortoises Evicted From Silhouette Island!


Very sad news... one of The Endangered Species Print Project's first partners The Nature Protection Trust of Seychelles (NPTS) is being evicted without reason from Silhouette island, where they have spent 14 years conserving wildlife.

NPTS works to conserve many species found only on the Seychelles Islands including giant tortoises previously thought to be extinct. The NPTS giant tortoise conservation project is carried out under the patronage of non other than Sir David Attenborough. In August of 2010 Silhouette Island was declared a national park, a victory for NPTS.

Five months later not only is the conservation group being evicted- so are the giant tortoises! Yes that is correct: no wild tortoises allowed!

Please read on to find out more about the eviction, what it means for biodiversity in the Seychelles including ESPP species like the Seychelles sheath-tailed bat, and what you can do to help.

A Note from NPTS's Dr. Justin Gerlach:

Since 1997 the Nature Protection Trust of Seychelles has been based on Silhouette island, one of the richest islands for biodiversity in Seychelles. This has been the base of our conservation projects for giant tortoise, terrapins and the Seychelles sheath-tailed bat. Over the past 14 years our projects on the island have been very successful, we managed to stop a major road development across the island and secured the island's future as a National Park. 

Aldabrachelys arnoldi
Photo by John Pemberton
During the first week of December 2010 we received a letter from the management of Silhouette island telling us to leave the island by the end of the month! No coherent reasons have been given but this appears to be retribution for having caused problems to the management's development agenda in stopping the road from being built and in getting the National Park declared.

We have spent the past few weeks trying to get this changed and the Seychelles Ministry of Environment has been lobbied heavily by various international conservation organizations and private supporters. However, at the end of January a meeting between NPTS, the island management and the Ministry of Environment failed to result in any change other than a postponement of our eviction to the end of March. 


This is obviously very traumatic and a great disappointment for our conservation projects. For the sheath-tailed bat it marks the end of population recovery. Since 1997 we have managed to increase the population from 18 to 40 bats and last year saw the first signs of them expanding into some of the areas they had abandoned in the past. From the end of March habitat management and roost protection will come to an end. We hope we leave the bat population stronger than it was 14 years ago and with a better chance of survival, but the future for the species is once again very uncertain.
The first 8 tortoises being removed from Silhouette Island 

We take consolation from the fact that we have produced a new generation of 160 young tortoises which will live on for at least 100 years. In that time there may be an opportunity to establish pure populations of these tortoises; fortunately these animals live longer than short-term management and development perspectives. 
-NPTS



                                                                                             
TAKE ACTION:
Register your disapproval of the actions of the Islands Development company and the lack of support from the Ministry of Environment by writing to the Seychelles Minister for Environment.

1.) You can simply copy and paste the following statement, or create your own:

I strongly disapprove of the eviction of the Nature Protection Trust of Seychelles from Silhouette island and your lack of protection to the island's flora and fauna.  As Minister for Environment you should work to protect and conserve the unique and endangered biodiversity of the Seychelles. 

 2.) Email to:  jmorgan@enrt.gov.sc  
That was easy! To send by post Seychelles Minister for Environment, P.O. Box 166, Victoria, Mahe, Seychelles.
                                                                                                  

SUPPORT NPTS:

You can still support the work of The Nature Protection Trust of Seychelles through The Endangered Species Print Project by purchasing our Seychelles sheath-tailed bat print by artist Molly Schafer.  Although NPTS will no longer be able to work to conserve the 40 remaining sheath-tailed bats they will use funds raised by ESPP to conserve other species on the Seychelles Islands.



Read more about the how the eviction will effect the endangered and endemic species of Silhouette here.

Please repost, facebook, and help spread the word!

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