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Building back better – Boosting research in Seychelles after the Covid-19 pandemic | 06 October 2020

Building back better – Boosting research in Seychelles after the Covid-19 pandemic

The research facility will be based on Cousin Island Special Reserve (Photo: Serge Marizy)

Nature Seychelles has received £60,000 for its ‘Building back Better in the Age of Covid’ campaign.

The funds are to be used to boost high level science in Seychelles by contributing to the construction of a new research centre on Cousin Island Special Reserve. The Seychelles Warbler Research Group, a team of biologists from the European universities of East Anglia, Groningen and Sheffield is donating the funds to help build the new facility.

Cousin Island's iconic International Field Station, which was set up by BirdLife International in 1971 and has housed hundreds of students, researchers, volunteers and conservation boot camp participants, was rendered structurally unsafe after severe beach erosion that impacted the island early this year and ate away at its foundation. The added economic catastrophe caused by the Covid-19 impact has made it impossible for the NGO to fund a rescue of the house or to build a new facility.

“Hundreds of scientific reports, articles and papers have been produced by researchers from this Field Station over the last 50 years,” says Dr Nirmal Jivan Shah, the chief executive of Nature Seychelles.

The Seychelles Warbler Research Group, which donated the funds, has been studying and helping in the conservation of the Seychelles warbler (Acrocephalussechellensis) since 1985. This unique long-term research programme in partnership with Nature Seychelles, the NGO that manages Cousin Island, has not only helped save this once critically endangered bird from the brink of extinction making it a poster-child for successful conservation, but also generated a series of high-profile scientific discoveries and publications in the most prestigious journals that have made the Seychelles warbler famous across the academic world. The bird is the most studied species in Seychelles. The group's close partnership with Nature Seychelles has rightly gained a worldwide reputation as an outstanding example of how Science and Conservation can work hand-in-hand.

Signing a memorandum of understanding remotely in the UK, Prof. David S. Richardson from the University of East Anglia said: “We are happy to donate the £60,000 that we have raised towards the building of the ‘Seychelles Warbler Research House’ on Cousin Island to enable research and conservation to continue and flourish on this amazing nature reserve.”

Richardson works alongside colleagues Professor Terry Burke of the University of Sheffield, and Prof. Jan Komdeur and Prof. Hannah Dugdale from the University of Groningen to make up the Warbler Group.

Receiving the donation, Dr Shah said: “This special bird, whose rescue caused a chain reaction that saved an entire island, whole ecosystems, and many other species, is doing it again. This time round, it is bringing research back to Cousin. We sincerely thank our friends and colleagues of the Warbler Group and hope to continue what is actually the longest-running international research programme in Seychelles and also to cascade other types of research.”

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