Setting the course for Seychelles Unesco stars


Aldabra seen from the air

A mix of local and international experts, the SIF board are spending three days on the atoll to review the last twelve months of research, conservation, management and outreach carried out by the organisation, and to set the direction for 2013.

2012 was a momentous year for Aldabra and the SIF. Amongst the highlights was the eradication in August of Aldabra’s last feral goat, which was the final remnant of an invasive species which had been introduced to the atoll over 100 years ago. In March the Aldabra renewable energy system came on line, generating over 98% of the island’s electricity needs from solar energy and making it the largest off-grid electricity system in the country. And in December celebrations were held to mark the 30th anniversary of the inscription of Aldabra as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Aldabra's marine ecosystems are being studied in a GEF funded project

The threat of piracy prevented many people from visiting the atoll, but the SIF continued to welcome visitors to the Vallée de Mai. Over 77,000 foreign visitors toured the endemic palm forest and marvelled at the Coco de mer, black parrot and other unique species. The funding generated from visitors to Vallée de Mai enabled the SIF to continue to run its daily operations on Aldabra, Praslin and Mahé financially independently.

Amongst the work done at the Vallée de Mai in 2012, researchers spent time examining the breeding ecology of the Coco de mer, investigating the tiny sooglossid frogs that live in the palm leaf litter, analysing the genetics of the two species of chameleon found there and monitoring the breeding and feeding of the black parrots.

The waterfall at the Vallee de Mai

Funding from the European Union (EU) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) enabled SIF to carry on with two major projects: research and work to remove invasive species which threaten Aldabra and the Vallée de Mai; and a review of Aldabra’s marine ecosystem. Both projects will continue over the next few years and are an important topic of discussion at the board meeting.

A tortoise relaxes in front of the Aldabra Mess, where the SIF Board will meet this weekend

The board will also be focusing on the Aldabra House project. Announced by the chairman, Ambassador Maurice Loustau-Lalanne, during the Aldabra 30th anniversary celebrations, the project is designed to bring some of the Aldabra experience to Mahé. The SIF head quarters will be designed to serve as a visitor attraction featuring outdoor and indoor exhibits, displays and activities designed to recreate the magic of Aldabra on Mahé, bridging the 1,000km gap between the inner islands and Aldabra.

During the AGM the board will discuss financing and architectural options to progress the project.

The SIF board

The SIF’s board of trustees

The SIF was created in 1979 by legal decree as a Public Trust, charged with the management of what were to become Seychelles’ UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
To give expertise, guidance and direction to the organisation, a board of trustees is appointed by the SIF Patron, the President of Seychelles, and as of late 2012 the new board’s composition is:

Ambassador Maurice Loustau-Lalanne, chairperson
Dr Frauke Fleischer-Dogley, chief executive
Dr Marie-Reine Hoareau, secretary general representing the Ministry of Education/Unesco
Mr Victorin Laboudallon, representing the Ministry of Environment/Praslin
Mr Joceyln Ah-Yu, Mauritius Commercial Bank of Seychelles
Ms Jeanette Larue, Ministry of Environment
Mr Pat Lablache, chairman of the Island Development  Company
Professor Stephen Blackmore CBE, Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh
Dr Lindsay Turnbull, University of Zurich
Professor Peter Edwards, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology
Dr Geoffroy Mauvais, IUCN
Dr Jack Grove, marine biologist
Mr Tim Smith, Eden Project


Science symposium

The 2012 Symposium was held on Mahe. This year Aldabra plays host

Prior to the annual general meeting of the Seychelles Islands Foundation’s board of trustees due to take place on Aldabra this weekend, the research and conservation work of the SIF will be the focus of a day-long science symposium on Aldabra.

The expertise of the combined the SIF staff, board and visiting consultants will be used to give an overview and review the current scientific work being conducted by the SIF, and to offer up recommendations for broadening future research.

The 2012 SIF Science and Projects Symposium was held on Mahé in conjunction with the University of Seychelles and attracted a wide audience of students, environmentalists and members of the public keen to learn more about conservation and research in Seychelles’ World Heritage Sites.

The last time a research symposium was held on Aldabra was in 2000. Despite missing out on broader participation, the use of Aldabra as a venue ensures that those present can focus exclusively on the conservation, research and environmental management priorities right in front of them.


Solar success


The Aldabra team and visiting solar energy technicians pose in front of the new solar panels

The annual general meeting taking place on Aldabra is the first chance for the SIF board to see the atoll’s new renewable energy system in action. The hybrid solar/enhanced efficiency generator has been supplying over 98% of the island’s electricity since it was commissioned in March 2012. The system, including 176m² of solar panels with a hyper-efficient diesel generator as back-up in case of multiple heavily cloudy days, is capable of meeting an even higher percentage of the electricity requirement, but, to ensure the generator’s smooth operation, it has to be run periodically.

The system was supplied by German firm, IBC Solar, which included in the package an on-line monitoring system, meaning that the smooth operation of the solar panels and generator can be monitored not only on Aldabra, but also at the SIF head office on Mahé and at the IBC Solar offices in Germany.
The total cost of the renewable energy system, including transportation and construction of a new power house, was €500,000, a sum the SIF expects to recoup through fuel cost savings in six and a half years’ time.

“This is an excellent example of a project that quite clearly makes both environmental and economic sense. It required a long term view to go ahead with the project, but the benefits are clear and we’re very grateful to the residential Finnish Ambassador and MCB that helped with financial support and expertise to make it a reality,” said SIF chief executive Dr Frauke Fleischer-Dogley.

The renewable energy system has resulted in an enormous reduction in Aldabra’s carbon footprint. The system has already saved over 27 tonnes of carbon dioxide from being emitted, minimised the risk of a fuel spill at the atoll and cut the noise pollution around the research station on the island of Picard on Aldabra.