Resorting to Conservation on North Island, Seychelles

As I continue my journey through the Seychelles I visit North Island, or Île du Nord, touted as the most expensive luxury island resort in the world. The island was actually purchased in 1997 specifically to restore the ecosystem, and this work is made possible by the resort. As the boat arrives we are transferred to a small zodiac vessel which takes us the final leg to the beach. I am met by the environmental managers on the island CJ and Tarryn. Our baggage is transferred to a biosecurity trailer and taken to a rat-proof room where it is inspected, a vital component of island biosecurity. Only then are we finally allowed out onto the 201 hectare island. CJ explains how the introduced cats, rats, pigs and chickens were all first eradicated, a pre-requisite to any successful island restoration. We discuss rodent biosecurity at length, and lessons learnt from the 2010 incursion of a Norway rat on to the island, luckily never seen again after extensive monitoring.

Turtle nest monitoring on North Island, Seychelles (Photo by James Russell)

We tour around in a buggy and visit the beaches, where turtles come ashore to nest, the nursery which provides thousands of native plants for habitat rehabilitation, and the restored forests where giant tortoises meander about, and baby white-tailed tropic-birds nest in the crevices. Moorhens (Gallinula chloropus) are everywhere, definitely having been winners from the rat eradication. The highlight is the hosing down of the Seychelles white-eye (Zosterops modestus), attracted to the simulated rainfall outside the nursery. We observe a dozen of these cute little birds, reintroduced to the island in 2007 and now abundant – a Seychelles conservation success story which had led to IUCN down-listing of the species.

Seychelles white-eye (Zosterops modestus)
Seychelles white-eye (Zosterops modestus) successfully reintroduced to North Island in 2007 and saved from extinction (Photo by James Russell)

I am treated to lunch at the gorgeous open air restaurant overlooking the beach, where Tarryn explains more of the history of the island and hopes for future reintroductions. Like on Ste Anne shearwaters have re-colonised. The island would be a great candidate for reintroduction of the Seychelles magpie-robin (Copsychus sechellarum). The resort design itself reminds me very much of The Brando in French Polynesia, another luxury eco-resort designed taking in to account harmony with the environment and minimising ecological footprint. I finish my brief stay with a visit to the boutique, where I can’t resist buying a shirt, and then depart back from the sun for an exhilarating boat ride into the start of the rainy season on Mahé. Thanks to North Island resort for their hospitality during my visit.

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Meet the Author
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.