We manage Cousin Island Special Reserve a marine protected area (MPA) that includes a 400m exclusion zone from the shore. Previously a coconut plantation, Cousin Island was purchased by the International Council for Bird Protection (now BirdLife) in 1968, for the immediate purpose of saving the endemic Seychelles Warbler. To save the warbler, a habitat restoration programme was implemented. The transformation of the island from an ecologically impoverished coconut plantation into a thriving indigenous forest also benefitted other species including the Seychelles Magpie Robin.
Since 1998, Cousin is successfully run and protected by a Seychellois team. It is a huge conservation success today and is home to a varied flora and fauna that includes seven species of nesting seabirds, in numbers exceeding 300,000 individuals. Five of Seychelles' eleven endemic land birds - Seychelles magpie robin, Seychelles sunbird, Seychelles fody, Seychelles blue pigeon, and the Seychelles warbler - are found on Cousin. The island is recognized as one of the most important breeding sites in the Western Indian Ocean for Hawksbill turtles, and the monitoring programme for this species was put in place in 1972. Since then an eight-fold increase in nesting turtles has been recorded. It is today one of the few islands free of introduced predators like cats and rats due to a strict invasives control programme.
Research has shown that the Reserve’s reefs are well protected resulting in a diverse and abundant marine fauna, especially of fish targeted by fishers. The management maintains a unique relationship with the local community that forestalls poaching and has led to an increased understanding of the role of MPAs in local fisheries. A project funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) looked at the role of the Cousin MPA in fish protection.
Cousin is designated an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International and is a Demonstration Site for the International Coral Reef Action Network (ICRAN). It is classified as a Wetland under Ramsar criteria.
The management of Cousin involves local people in protected area planning and also in sustainable use activities including eco-tourism activities that finance the running of the island and implementation of other projects. The initiation of eco-tourism in 1972 has grown to become an exciting program run under internationally accepted principles. It has won numerous awards and accolades including the Conde Nast Ecotourism Award, and the British Airways Tourism for Tomorrow. In 2005, a management effectiveness study by UNEP and IUCN found the Reserve to be well managed and effective. In 2006, the IUCN Turtle Specialist Group highlighted the success of Cousin’s turtle conservation program which started in 1972.
See more on the Cousin Island Special Reserve website.