Rare birds find new home on Denis


Some 58 Seychelles Warblers (Ti merl dezil) and 47 Seychelles Fodies (Toktoks) have been relocated to Denis this year in a project coordinated by Nature Seychelles.

The establishment of the birds on Denis should lead to the removal of the Fody from the IUCN’s globally threatened birds list – the first time any Seychelles species has managed to erase itself from the list, according to Nature Seychelles.
The new “colony” is also expected to considerably improve the status of the Warbler.

The project was carried out in two phases. In February this year, 47 Fodies from Fregate Island were caught and placed in cages for transfer to Denis.

The 58 Warblers were moved from Cousin Island in June with the assistance of the Warbler Study Group, comprising UK scientist David Richardson from the University of East Anglia and three Dutch students from Groningen University. The birds were airlifted by helicopter over three mornings to Denis.

According to Nature Seychelles, the Warblers have quickly settled in and are already nest building just weeks after the move, while monitoring continues for the Fodies.

The project involved a number of partners: Nature Seychelles, Cousin, Cousine, Denis and Fregate islands and the Warbler Research Group, along with the approval of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources.
Sponsors of the project included Barclays Bank, a Rutherford Grant and the African Bird Club.

“The project illustrates excellent cooperation between NGO, private sector, Government and universities,” Nature Seychelles’ spokesperson Colleen Morel said.
Both the Warbler and Fody are endemic birds found only in the granitic islands of the Seychelles. They are regarded as globally threatened by the IUCN because they have small total populations and are found on only a few islands in Seychelles.

The total population of Fodies is around 3,700 individuals across six islands. The Warbler population stands at more than 2,000 birds distributed over four islands.

Both birds were more widely distributed in the past and were probably found on many of Seychelles’ granitic islands. Habitat loss – namely the conversion of native forests to coconut plantations – and the spread of predator species, especially rats and cats, led to their demise.

Conservationists from Seychelles and overseas met in 2001 to prepare action plans for the Seychelles endemic birds in trouble. Among their recommendations was the establishment of new island populations to help increase the total numbers of the rare birds and provide security against accidents. But Warblers and Fodies could only be moved to islands free of rats and cats.

Cats were eradicated from Denis in 2000. Rats and mice soon followed in 2002, and extensive surveys from 2004 revealed that the island was free of introduced mammals.

Denis Island has forest areas dominated by native trees, which were improved by extensive planting as part of a Nature Seychelles-GEF funded project in 2001, providing suitable habitats for the Warblers and Fodies.


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