Saving the Seychelles White-eye

By May 30, 2019 June 14th, 2019 Nature

It was with great pride that we recently assisted in establishing a new population of Seychelles White-eyes on Grande Soeur. North Island itself benefited from endangered species relocation and we are now, in turn, able to perpetuate a virtuous cycle by donating individuals from our healthy White-eye population to other islands in the Seychelles, preventing extinction of this rare endemic bird.

Seychelles White-eye on North Island

In 2007, 25 Seychelles White-eyes were released on North Island as part of our intensive ‘Noah’s Ark’ project. North Island was deemed an ideal island on which to introduce the species, due to its large size, ongoing habitat rehabilitation and rat-free status which has undoubtedly contributed to our population’s continued increase. It has also rapidly responded to the successful efforts to eradicate Common Mynas from North Island, releasing the Seychelles White-eye from interspecific competition, resulting in improved reproductive success and survival rates of especially young birds.

Our founder population originated from Conception Island, whose population has since been devastated by the recent invasion of Black rats. As a result, the world population of this species has drastically declined from 650 to 440 individuals. The most recent survey conducted on North Island in 2018 recorded 151–168 individuals, 16 of which were captured and transferred to Grande Soeur as well as 30 birds from Fregate Island. They were transported by helicopter inside a ‘helibird-box’, a special soundproof box with ventilated air, coordinated by conservation biologists Dr Gérard Rocamora and Dr Elvina Henriette and their Island Biodiversity and Conservation Centre team.

Projects like these demonstrate how vital island restoration programmes are to recovering endemic island species. In an ongoing project lasting over two decades, North Island’s entire ecosystem that was degraded and overrun with invasive plant and animal species has been restored to its original natural abundance, paving the way for the return of more indigenous and threatened bird species.