Seychelles Project

Seychelles archipelago is a known biodiversity hotspot, where the percentage of endemic animal species varies between 50 and 85%, and of plant species about 45%. The islands are very small, with a total surface of 455 km2, thus the impact of human activities through direct exploitation, territory exploitation and introduction of invasive alien species, has been dramatic for both terrestrial and coastal ecosystems. Today there are only fragments of the original vegetation, and biodiversity and indigenous fauna’s abundancy has gone through a drastic decline. Parco Natura Viva participates in a conservation project for the safeguard of two endemic species of the archipelago: the Seychelles giant tortoise and the Seychelles sheath-tailed bat.
In order to contribute to the ex-situ conservation of the giant tortoise, young individuals of around 2 years old have been acquired from the Malagasy institution responsible for the conservation of this species: GERP (Groupe d’Étude et de Recherche sur les Primates de Madagascar). Furthermore, Parco Natura Viva raises visitors’ awareness through specific educational programmes and activities, and financially supports the reintroduction programme of Seychelles tortoises on Rodrigues island, where they are extinct. This project envisages the total renaturalization of the islands of Seychelles’ archipelago, with indigenous plants to recreate the original habitat.
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Furthermore, Parco Natura Viva actively supports the in-situ conservation of Seychelles giant tortoises by contributing to the purchase of nano-microchips for the GPS-tracking of babies raised in giant tortoises breeding centres in Curieuse island, and these microchips will allow to prevent the illegal trade of young individuals (particularly under the age of 5), activity that greatly threatens the survival of this species. This project is carried out thanks to an agreement that Parco Natura Viva signed, in collaboration with Green Teen Team, with the Seychelles National Parks Authority in 2017.
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This agreement foresees a second conservation project for the safeguard of another emblematic species of Seychelles and critically endangered: the Seychelles sheath-tailed bat Coleura seychellensis. The first stages of the project aim at stopping the emergencies, collaborating with the only local guide in order to carry out a survey on the individuals in the distribution areas, so to know at least the numbers, sex and feeding habits. For Seychelles sheath-tailed bats, this is a desperate attempt given their critical situation, and it is important to conduct it with extreme caution through adequate equipment to guarantee the least invasiveness.
Seychelles tortoises (Geochelone gigantea), before Mauritius colonisation in 1600, were present in all islands of the Indian Oceans. Then many visitors and colonists began to collect and kill the tortoises. It’s believed that all Seychelles tortoises became extinct around 120 years ago, apart from the individuals on the Aldabra island. Thus, today Geochelone gigantea is commonly called Aldabra giant tortoise and they are classified as “Vulnerable” in the IUCN Red List.

On the other hand, the Seychelles sheath-tailed bat (Coleura seychellensis) is classified as “Critically Endangered” in the IUCN Red List and the last colony counts less than 50 individuals. This species went through a first serious decline in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when intense deforestation left space for coconut plantations, that do not have shrub layers capable of supporting invertebrates that make up this species’ diet. The plantations and the vegetal invasive species threat the last remaining habitats capable of supporting this species. The Seychelles sheath-tailed bat is also sensitive to the anthropic disturbance of the caves where it lives and suffers the weight of predation by introduced invasive species, such as stray cats and barn owls.
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At the moment, Parco Natura Viva does not host any individuals of Seychelles sheath-tailed bat, however it hosts 11 individuals of Aldabra giant tortoises, 8 youngsters and 3 adults. Of the 3 adults, Bulbo is one of the most important individuals hosted by a European Zoological Park due to its high genetic value. Bulbo is huge: it weighs over 200 kg and it is about 100 years old. The other two adults, Roger and Priscilla, weigh a little less and seem younger. It is thought that individuals of this species can live up to 150 years. For the conservation project of the Aldabra giant tortoise, the exhibit, divided into two dedicated areas, one for the three adults and the other for the young individuals has been enlarged greatly thanks to the construction of the new area called “House of Giants”. The outside areas have become even bigger, and in the House of Giants the tortoises have two indoor areas that guarantee adequate temperature and humidity during the coldest months of the year.
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December 2018

Parco Natura Viva staff left for the second mission in Seychelles and signed the second agreement with the Seychelles National Parks Authority to continue the conservation project on the Seychelles giant tortoise and bat.

February 2018

Parco Natura Viva sent other 90 nano-microchips and a digital reader to the Seychelles National Parks Authority in Curieuse island. These will be inserted in other young adults.
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November 2017

The first field mission for the conservation of Seychelles tortoises was carried out, and thanks to the collaboration with Bologna University and with the University of Sacro Cuore of Piacenza, will have positive implications also on the welfare of animals hosted by Zoological Parks. During the mission, the Seychelles National Parks Authority informed the staff of the park that the application of the nano-microchips has start to bring the hoped results: the problem of the theft of  young tortoises in the breeding centre was, in fact, been almost solved simply by informing the public opinion that microchips were being inserted in all the young ones. 

March 2017

The first microchip insertions were carried out on Seychelles tortoises with a workshop dedicated to illustrating the application technique on young tortoises raised on the island of Curieuse. The nano-microchips are only 6 mm longs, in contrast with the class one of 10 mm, and therefore they are much less invasive, allowing the application not on adults but on young ones of only 100 grams and just few centimetres long.
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January 2017

On the 31st of January 2017, Parco Natura Viva signed an agreement with the Seychelles National Parks Authority, together with the collaboration of the Green Teen Team. The agreement will allow to help Seychelles safeguarding giant tortoises and will allow to save from extinction the only species of bat present in this island. The park has already carried out the first concrete action by sending 70 nano-microchips to be applied on baby “giants” that are born, with the aim of avoiding that these get in the illegal trade. It will be necessary then to go to Seychelles to explain to local populations how to insert the nano-microchips in order to avoid hurting the baby tortoises.
At the same time, the Park started to look for collaborations to start a first survey on the population of Seychelles sheath-tailed bats. Such survey will have to be the least invasive possible, since there are just a few individuals left, probably around 50.
If you are interested in this project and you want to help saving the Aldabra giant tortoise, the Seychelles sheath-tailed bat and their habitat, there are different ways in which you can contribute. By participating to the activities organized by Parco Natura Viva, such as guided tours and educational workshops, you can learn more about this species and the threats to its survival, also learning what behaviours to adopt in everyday life to protect their habitat. By adopting the park’s Aldabra giant tortoises you will directly contribute to help finance this project; but even with your visit to the park you will be able to make a concrete contribution to conservation, since a percentage of the value of the admission ticket is always destined to in situ conservation projects. Finally, by making other people aware of the problems of animals in the wild, you can actively help spread the knowledge and guarantee a future for these species in their natural environment.
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