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Royalty and Celebrities Drawn to Rat-free Seychelles Island

After undergoing invasive species removal and ecological restoration, North Island, Seychelles becomes a popular destination among royalty and celebrities.

Rats don’t make great company when you’re trying to enjoy yourself on your tropical escape. Unfortunately, islands around the world are infested with rats and other invasive species that have been transported via human infrastructure. Non-native, damaging (invasive) species can quickly devastate an island ecosystem, and in fact are a leading cause of extinctions worldwide.

Native island species are not the only ones who feel more comfortable in the absence of invasive species. Local communities living on islands also suffer from the drawbacks of pests, which range from disease to agricultural damage. Plus, invasive species can cancel out the allure of islands that draws visitors–and therefore reduce important tourism revenue. Conversely, an island that is thriving and bursting with life is going to be very attractive to visitors from around the world.

Case Study: North Island, Seychelles

In the 1800’s a colonial plantation was built around coconut and spices growing on North Island in the Seychelles. The plantation was abandoned after the coconut market collapsed, and what was left was a frazzled island choked by weeds and crawling with rodents and other invasive species. Not a pretty sight.

Luckily, by the time the South African eco-tourism company Wilderness Safaris stepped in in 1997, it was not too late for ecological restoration. Efforts to remove invasive species and repopulate the island with native vegetation and wildlife have proven successful; in 2006 the island was declared rat-free, and perhaps the most heartwarming story of recovery belongs to the once-thought extinct Seychelles White-eye, whose population has blossomed from ~25 to more than 100 individuals.

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An Endangered Seychelles White-eye (Zosterops modestus). Credit: Peter Kappes

North Island is faring much better after removal of many of the invasive species cleared the way for its recovery. Now, the island attracts royalty (the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Kate decided to honeymoon there in 2011), celebrities, and tourists from all walks of life.

To ensure the region remains vibrant and ecologically healthy, biosecurity measures (including searching incoming vessels) have been put in place. Biosecurity prevents rats from setting foot on this vibrant island again, and gaining a “Protected Area” status for North Island would help management do even more to ensure this beautiful and sensitive place does not become re-invaded.

Invasive species removal has proven to be hugely beneficial for islands around the world. Native wildlife, local communities, and tourists alike have at least one belief in common: rat-free is better.

Featured photo: After removal of invasive species, four populations of White Terns recolonized Seychelles Island. Credit: Peter Kappes
Source: Seychelles News Agency

About Sara Kaiser

Sara received a BA in anthropology from UC Santa Cruz in 2014. As a freelance writer and editor, she seeks to produce and highlight stories that support ecological responsibility, body awareness, emotional intelligence, and creative action, and reveal the connections between them.

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