Wedge-Tailed Shearwaters Recolonise Ste Anne Island

Sainte Anne is a 219 hectare island lying just off four kilometres from the coast of Mahé, Seychelles. It is the largest island of the Ste Anne Marine National Park and was originally discovered on Saint Anne’s Day in 1742. It was subsequently the first of the Seychelles islands to be settled by the French before they took up residency on Mahé. After stints as a whaling and war station, today the island is home to a popular 5-star resort. Local scientist and conservationist Gérard Rocamora has been working on the island for over five years and toured us around for a full day excursion.

A wedge-tailed shearwater recolonises Ste Anne Island and guards its single egg (Photo by James Russell)

After partaking in some tourist tourism around the resort, we set-off anti-clockwise for a circum-navigation of the island, searching the beaches for hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) tracks as they commence their breeding season, measuring turtle size and nest locations with student Sophie Sarton du Jonchay. Further along the cliffs on the seaward facing side of the island Gérard explains to us how in the past few years wedge-tailed shearwaters (Puffinus pacificus) have re-colonised the island from over-flow on nearby Île Sèche. Gérard now undertakes annual rat control around the breeding colony, which has seen it rapidly grow from only a few pairs to an estimated 20-25 pairs at least nesting on the island.

Gérard Rocamora undertakes rat control
Gérard Rocamora undertakes rat control to protect the new shearwater colony on Ste Anne Island, with Île Sèche in the background (Photo by James Russell)

We spread some rat poison around the colony to give this colony every best chance of success, without which the birds would all be killed off by predation, and inspect burrows for occupancy and find birds already starting to nest. As the sun sets we finish off our tour of the island inspecting the old World War II gun batteries overlooking the colony and follow the old road back to the resort, before enjoying dinner at the cafeteria. Thanks to Sainte Anne Island resort for supporting our visit to the island.

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Conservation biologist Dr. James Russell works throughout the world on remote islands and other sites to provide conservation solutions by applying a combination of scientific methods. Follow James on National Geographic voices for regular updates on his own work or other exciting developments in island conservation.