A small Public-Private Partnership project in the Seychelles shows how successful public-private cooperation can be for nature conservation education.
Bays with beautiful tree-fringed beaches draw tourists to a small number of resorts on the Seychelles main island of Mahe’s quiet west coast. Next to a luxury hotel, a novel project has been created in cooperation with the Seychelles Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Transport. The National Park and Forestry Section of the Division of Nature Conservation, identified a small area of mangrove forest as a public nature attraction.
In May 2006 the hotel financed an elevated walkway to be built through the mangroves so that visitors could gain safe and easy access to the mangroves. The Department of Environment organized construction of the walkway and a visitor information board, while the hotel maintains the infrastructure and arranges nature walks there three times per week for its guests. The mangrove walkway has also attracted local schoolchildren.
Although the walkway is only some 100 metres long, it transects a vibrant mangrove forest containing several flowering species of trees, which were flowering and fruiting in profusion. These include Avicennia marina, Rhizophora mucronata, Bruguiera gymnorrhiza and Sonneratia alba, plus the fern Achrostichum. These mangrove species are also widespread throughout the Asian region,
At ground level, the sandy and muddy soil is populated by dense fields of vertical pneumatophores, the strange “breathing-roots” of the mangrove that enable the trees to obtain oxygen directly from the air. Many animals live among these roots, especially crabs, which can burrow for safety into the soil to escape predators and to keep cool and moist.
The feature species in this mangrove is Neosarmatium meinertii, a large sesarmid (or “square-back” crab) with brilliant red claws. This species feeds on mangrove leaves that have fallen to the ground. Pieces of leaf are pulled inside its burrow so that it can feed safely and leisurely. This feeding behaviour also contributes importantly to the breakdown and turn-over of organic matter which the mangrove contributes to the coastal ecosystem as detritus.
The Mangroves for the Future (MFF) programme supports small private-partnerships of this kind, and would particularly encourage creating simple awareness-raising materials for tourists and students illustrating some of the unique biological and ecological features of the mangroves, and why they are important to the coastal environment of the Seychelles.