It was the sort of "bang" nobody wants to start the year with, but it’s the one we got. 2020 began for us with devastating erosion on Cousin Island. It was followed hot on the heels by a global pandemic and blow-back to the economy of Seychelles. But Nature Seychelles persisted, surmounted incredible challenges, and supported its staff while continuing to have a meaningful impact for nature, people, and Seychelles.
Here are our 10 top highlights of what was a roller-coaster year.
We rallied together and continued our core work of conservation
Not only did the NGO manage to stay afloat amidst the most difficult financial period, with the help of government and others, but also did so with noteworthy successes. We rallied together and continued our core work of protecting, managing, and researching conserved areas and threatened species, amidst reduced financial capacity caused by a loss of tourism-related revenues
Our Chief Executive, Dr Nirmal Shah, an acclaimed environmentalist, and sustainable development practitioner, used his global influence to provide thought leadership on the blue economy, conservation, and protected areas as well as national civil society action during the pandemic. He was a key speaker on many virtual panels and webinars alongside global experts. Among these was the global webinar "Tech for a Better Planet" held by telecom giant Huawei, which garnered a record 1,360,000 viewers. Dr Shah also led the successful drive to get government budgetary assistance for environmental NGOs.
Accolades and Awards
Dailus Laurence the Chief Warden of Cousin Island won the 2020 African Ranger Award
Nature Seychelles' out-of-the-box career training program, the Conservation Boot Camp (CBC), which unfortunately closed down during the onset of the pandemic, was recognized as one of the 10 Top Conservation Training programs worldwide by Conservation Careers.
Dailus Laurence, Cousin Island's Chief Warden won the prestigious 2020 African Ranger Award promoted by the Alibaba Foundation and the Paradise Foundation.
The LEAP project broke new ground for co-management
Our innovative Locally Empowered Area Protection (LEAP) project, which will allow, for the first time in Seychelles, for local people to participate in the management of protected areas, broke new ground by formalizing co-management of the Baie Ternay and Port Launay Marine National Parks. The co-management process was kick-started through the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which had been approved by the Cabinet of Ministers, between Nature Seychelles and the Seychelles National Parks Authority.
10 years of saving corals and more international support
The Reef Rescuers celebrated a decade of coral restoration action
The novel Reef Rescuers project celebrated a decade of action. It received acclamation as the pioneering large-scale coral reef restoration worldwide. Nature Seychelles has now received a new grant for the next 5 years worth about 1.2 million US Dollars from the Adaptation Fund, through UNDP and the Government of Seychelles, to continue this work as part of a large regional project with Mauritius.
Nature Seychelles developed an online payment system for ease of payments and donations to the NGO and to reduce human contact during the pandemic. The system is being used for ticketing on Cousin as well. A Covid-19 resource of carefully curated scientific papers, articles, and reports was also launched.
Safe Tourism label
We put in place all the required facilities and protocols for Cousin Island to become the first protected area to receive the safe tourism label. The official label is promoted by the ministries of tourism and health, allowing the island to resume the much-needed ecotourism activities when borders reopened for visitors.
Building back better
Dr Nirmal Shah (L) and Dr David Richardson (R) signing an MOU remotely for the Seychelles Warbler Research House
We received £60,000 for our “Building back Better in the Age of COVID” campaign from the Seychelles Warbler Research Group, a team of biologists from several European universities who study the Seychelles warbler, to boost high-level science in Seychelles through the construction of a new research centre on Cousin Island.
Keeping people healthy during a pandemic
We contributed to COVID-19 bounce back by revitalizing and expanding our organic Heritage Garden, despite climate-induced salt intrusion in the garden. The Sanctuary at Roche Caiman served as a space where people can heal, rejuvenate, and beat the Covid-19 blues.
For the first time in its history, Nature Seychelles requested, and received, help from the government for its recurrent budget for the Cousin Island Special Reserve and the Sanctuary at Roche Caiman, the two protected areas it manages on behalf of the state. A big thank you goes out to the Ministries of Finance and Environment, and the Environment Trust Fund.