Nature Seychelles, an NGO and the Birdlife partner in the Seychelles, took over the management of the reserve in 1998. Our mission is to improve the conservation of local biodiversity through research, habitat conservation, monitoring, education and awareness, advocacy and ecotourism.
Cousin Island receives some 10,000 visitors a year. Visitor fees and donations obtained sustain the management of the reserve as well as research, conservation and education projects both on and off the reserve.
Formerly a coconut plantation, Cousin Island was purchased in 1968 by the International Council for Bird Preservation (ICBP_, now Birdlife International, and turned into a reserve. In 1974, it was designated a Special Reserve. Visitor fees and Eric Limblad, a pioneer in conservation, provided the necessary funds to run the island initially.
Cousin Island Special Reserve is a Protected Area. The Reserve is 27 hectares, including the surrounding marine area up to 400 metres offshore. It lies 2 km. from the nearest island, Praslin (second largest in the archipelago).
Cousin is a wilderness area today. 35 years of conservation has turned the previous coconut plantation into predominantly native forest dominated by Pisonia grandis, Morinda citrifolia and Ochrosia oppositifolia. Coastal vegetation includes Scaevola and Casuarinas. There is also a marsh in the interior of the island.
Visitors are received in the Visitor Centre upon arrival on the island. This is an open structure where specimens of the island’s wildlife are exhibited.
A small sales counter makes publications relevant to the island’s biodiversity available to visitors.
Management of the Reserve is undertaken entirely by locals based on the island. The staff comprises an island manager, an assistant manager and six wardens who all participate in guiding. One member of staff is specifically allocated to the Visitor Centre to welcome visitors and promote sales. All staff report to the Chief Executive at the Head Office on Mahe, the main island.
Staff work Mondays to Fridays, Mondays being reserved for training, monitoring work and school or specialist group visits.
The island is closed at the weekend.
Cousin is the most important nesting site in the Western Indian Ocean for Hawksbill Turtles. It is home to a number of reptiles such as giant tortoises and five endemic lizards, giant millipedes and hermit crabs. Seven species of nesting seabirds and five of Seychelle’s eleven endemic land birds are found on Cousin.
All visitors to the island enjoy a guided tour which lasts between 1.5-2 hours. Visitors have to be accompanied by a guide whilst touring the island. Tours are conducted in English and French.
No accommodation or restaurant facilities are available in order to minimise waste production; bins are not provided to encourage visitors to take their rubbish off the island. Barbeques are not allowed to minimise risks of fires. Tourists may not take away souvenirs from the beaches or the trails. Flush toilets are not used on the island in order to save water and to prevent huge volumes of waste water from accumulating in the ground. There are plans to replace the pit latrines with composting toilets.
Interpretation and exhibitry
The Visitor Centre contains static panels illustrating the island’s wildlife as well as providing information about other projects taking place off the reserve. The display materials are replaced every six months. The wardens make use of an information board to draw attention to topical and specific facts about the island’s biodiversity; the information is updated every week. The Centre also features a display of specimens such as feathers, shells, seeds. corals to arouse curiosity and encourage handson exploration by visitors and children. Feedback is obtained via a Visitor’s Book.
Formal (school and university) learning
The Reserve provides opportunities for training of interns from the Seychelles Hospitality and Tourism Training Centre (SHTTC), and provides opportunities for school groups and Wildlife Clubs to learn more about the biodiversity of the island.
Prior to visiting the Reserve, Education staff at the Head Office assist group leaders in preparing worksheets to be used on the tour. Educational materials have been produced to assist with the integration of bird ecology in the Primary Science Curriculum.
Informal (general public) learning
Our wardens conduct interactive guided tours which concentrate on the ecology of the island’s biodiversity, with historical aspects integrated in the information provided to the visitors. They also assist schools and community groups with practical projects such as a training workshop on invasive alien species (AIS) held foe Wildlife Clubs leaders, followed by uprooting of the invasive plants from the reserve.
Brochures, produced both in English and French, contain the Visitor Code of Ethics that inform them of regulations to be observed whilst visiting the island. The brochures are distributed free of charge. An identification booklet on Cousin wildlife and another on marine life are on sale at the Visitor Centre.
There is a Research House on the island which regularly receives visiting scientists.
Cousin Islandhaving attracted international research on rare and endemic species, as well as reef monitoring. Some recent visitors include a researcher from Stockholm University modelling for Magpie Robins, Swedish scientists studying the impact of the last El Nino event on Cousin’s reefs and a PhD student studying the Seychelles Fody over a three-year period. International researchers are usually supported for the duration of their stay.
In-house training is also delivered by local experts and visiting scientists and include interpretation skills, turtle tagging, bird ringing training. Quarterly staff meetings with Senior Management are held on the island, as are Board of Directors meetings.