A lifebelt for Cousin Island Special Reserve MPA

Nature Seychelles/Liz Mwambui
Publicado: 07 Junio 2023
Última edición: 07 Junio 2023
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Cousin Island Special Reserve in Seychelles has been financed sustainably through ecotourism for over 50 years. A Tourist User Fee (TUF) funds conservation activities for a range of species, including endangered land birds, seabirds, and Hawksbill turtles, as well as surveillance and infrastructure maintenance. The Covid-19 pandemic wiped out eco-tourism revenue causing funding shortages. A BIOPAMA Rapid Response Grant bridged this shortfall, primarily funding the salaries of 8 wardens and 1 science officer who manned the island and carried out conservation, research, surveillance and maintenance. Cousin Island Special Reserve was able to retain staff and effectively carry out conservation and maintenance activities.


África Oriente y África del Sur
Scale of implementation
Arrecifes coralinos
Bosques costeros
Ecosistemas marinos y costeros
Mar abierto
Adaptación al cambio climático
Caza furtiva y delitos ambientales
Ciencia y investigación
Comunicación y divulgación
Especies exóticas invasoras
Especies y la extinción
Financiación sostenible
Gobernanza de las áreas protegidas y conservadas
Mantenimiento de infraestructura
Servicios ecosistémicos
Pérdida de la biodiversidad
Acidificación de los océanos
Aumento del nivel del mar
Mareas altas (tormentas)
Pérdida de ecosistemas
Sustainable development goals
ODS 8 - Trabajo decente y crecimiento económico
ODS 13 - Acción por el clima
ODS 14 - Vida submarina
ODS 15 - Vida de ecosistemas terrestres
ODS 17 - Alianzas para lograr los objetivos
Aichi targets
Meta 1: Aumento de la sensibilization sobre la biodiversidad
Meta 10: Ecosistemas vulnerables al cambio
Meta 11: Áreas protegidas y conservadas
Meta 12: Reducir el riesgo de extinción
Meta 14: Los servicios ecosistemicos
Meta 19: Intercambio de información y conocimiento
Meta 20: Movilización de recursos de todas las fuentes
(I)NDC Submission


Mostrar en “Planeta protegido”


The solution sought to overcome the financing challenge for operations on Cousin Island Special Reserve during the Covid-19 Pandemic. The lack of finances put the Reserve and MPA at risk of failing. In an alternative scenario, without staff being on-site 24/7, endangered species such as Seychelles Magpie Robins and Hawksbill turtles, both of which are heavily managed, would not be monitored; other key conservation activities such as monitoring and censuses for seabirds, tortoises and Lizards, beach profile monitoring and clean-ups and invasive species removal would have stopped; there would be no surveillance to manage poaching (of seabirds and turtles) and illegal fishing in the MPA; and infrastructure would not be maintained. The long-term Seychelles Warbler research requires a core staff to be on-site to host researchers, as does the training of students from post-secondary institutions on work-based attachment.


  • Staff who retained their salaries and the NGO which kept its core staff
  • Students on work-based attachment and researchers
  • Nature Seychelles from receiving revenue
  • Tour operators benefiting from ecotourism.
  • Seychelles’ conservation and tourism

¿ Cómo interactúan los building blocks en la solución?

MPA management requires considerable human and financial resources. Having a core staff willing to continue working remotely despite the Covid-19 pandemic challenges was crucial to keeping the MPA afloat. This was made possible by donor funding that could support salaries. Additional manpower that was provided by students on work-based attachment helped to complete the extensive conservation, surveillance and maintenance work and to fill the gap left by the defunct paying volunteer program. Cousin Island could only open to Ecotourism during the Covid-19 period once it was certified “safe” for travel, therefore meeting all government requirements were paramount.


As a result,

  • Core island staff were retained;
  • Critical conservation activities continued particularly monitoring of endangered land birds, critically endangered Hawksbill turtles, breeding seabirds, invasive species removal, censuses for tortoises and lizards; beach clean-ups and profiling; 2 reports were produced and data collected aggregated for further reports 
  • Daily patrols both on land and in the sea, one illegal fishing trap and a Fish Aggregating Device removed from the MPA; a budding relationship with the Seychelles Coast Guard and an official procedure for reporting illegal fishing boats established;
  • 10 students from the Seychelles Maritime and Tourism Academies had their work-based training and provided additional help; one hired as a warden
  • The long-term and globally significant research on Seychelles warbler with overseas universities continued.
  • Cousin Island reopened to tourists earlier than expected as staff were on site to provide eco-tourism-oriented guided tours of the island, and revenues began to trickle in
  • Maintenance of trails, water reservoirs, the solar energy system, boats & engines as well as the buildings (staff and researcher accommodation as well as a small lab).


Nature Seychelles/Liz Mwambui

You are most likely to meet Christopher Rose on your visit to Cousin Island. Christopher, referred to as "Carrot" by his fellow wardens, conducts guided tours of the island, showcasing the unique biodiversity of the Seychelles to his visitors. With a typical island lilt, he regales visitors with stories: how shearwaters sound like ghosts at dusk, how the Seychelles Magpie Robins follow you around when you whistle, and how George, the oldest Aldabra giant tortoise on the island, is a ladies’ man.


Christopher's confidence is immediately apparent.


“Like all our Wardens, he is proficient at small boat handling, conservation practices including monitoring species and invasive species control, surveillance, visitor management and guiding, small repairs and maintenance, and soft skills like dealing with stakeholders. The wardens of Cousin Island are probably some of the most multidisciplinary protected area staff in the world,” says Dr Nirmal Shah, Nature Seychelles’ Chief Executive.


It may surprise you to learn that Carrot is a newbie on Cousin. Just two short years ago, he was a fresh student at the Seychelles Tourism Academy taking his first tentative steps towards a career as a conservation warden. He is one of ten students who did their work-based attachment on the island in 2021. Their training was made possible by the BIOPAMA grant support.


He was recruited after he completed his work experience on Cousin after he displayed exemplary behaviour and ability.


At the time of his attachment, Christopher’s favourite activity was turtle patrols. He enjoyed seeing turtles coming to lay their eggs and hatchlings making their way to the ocean.


Today he is proficient at turtle monitoring and is often tasked with being the turtle team leader, helping volunteers learn the ropes of monitoring.


But talking to visitors is what he enjoys the most.


Ecotourism is the core funding mechanism for the conservation of Cousin. Its success has come through deliberate efforts to provide an excellent product and its operations are aligned to international standards.


"Our challenge is to maintain the integrity of the island as a cradle of biodiversity and popular ecotourism site," Dr Nirmal Shah concludes. “This financial support during the Covid-19 crisis helped us do that.”

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