Coco de mer under attack-• Ministry issues deadline for registration of trees and nuts



In the largest single attack on the Unesco World Heritage Site, 41 green nuts were cut down and removed from the Fond Peper area of the site.

This sad incident has prompted the Ministry of Environment and Energy to issue an ultimatum for the registration of coco de mer trees and nuts.

Every person who has a coco de mer tree growing on their property is requested to declare this to the Ministry of Environment and Energy at Fond B’Offay, Praslin or the Botanical Gardens, Mahe.

Those having up to 25 trees must make the declaration by November 30, 2012 and those having more than 25 trees must make the declaration by December 31, 2012.

The declaration should include the number of female trees, male trees, juvenile trees, seedlings and geminated seeds.

It should also include the number of mature nuts in their possession.
Members of the public are also informed that it is an offence to make a false declaration to an environment officer.

The ministry is also reminding all licensed coco de mer dealers to ensure that they have a valid coco de mer dealer license on display where they are selling coco de mer nuts and that failure to do so will result in prosecution.

The ministry is informing all people who own a coco de mer, but do not have a tag for it, that they must declare it to the Ministry of Environment and Energy at Fond B’Offay, Praslin or the Botanical Gardens, Mahé, by November 30.

Upon declaration, that person will have to provide the ministry with details as to where and how the nut was obtained and pay R350 for a tag and permit.

The ministry is informing members of the public that it is an offence to be in possession of coco de mer nuts without an original tag and permit or to sell coco de mer nuts without a valid license.

It is also an offence to be in possession of or trade in coco de mer kernel without authorisation from the ministry.

The ban on the trade in coco de mer kernel which was introduced in response to a series of poaching incidents earlier this year remains in force.

With regard to the recent theft at the Vallée de Mai, the Seychelles Islands Foundation (SIF) – which manages this as well as Seychelles’ other World Heritage Site, Aldabra – believes it is the work of an organised group.

With the approximate weight of a green coco de mer nut being between 9kg and 14 kg, the raid, which took place on Sunday, October 28, would have taken a number of people several hours to carry out.

The financial value of the stolen nuts is believed to be in excess of R600,000. Of far greater importance is the ecological impact of the theft, which has deprived the forest of many decades of coco de mer nut growth and significantly dented forest rejuvenation in the area targeted.

A coco de mer nut can take up to seven years from pollination to be ready to fall to the forest floor and an average 25 years to reach reproductive maturity, making the loss of 41 nuts a significant blow to the survival of the species.

Among the nuts stolen were several specimens which formed part of an ongoing project to research the little-understood coco de mer biology, the results of which are now in jeopardy.

Following the theft a number of police operations have been conducted on Mahé, Praslin and La Digue, in which coco de mer were seized. Among those arrested as a result are three businessmen, who have been released on bail pending formal legal charges.