The Curious History of Curieuse Island, Seychelles

Curieuse Island in the Seychelles is steeped in all kinds of history. Lying just a kilometre off the coast of Praslin this 286 hectare island lies in its own marine national park and is named after the French ship La Curieuse, which arrived along with the ship La Digue. Throughout the 19th and 20th century the island was home to leper colonies, where apparently gender segregation was in vain. A half a kilometre long causeway securing the entire main bay was a failed attempt to farm hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) in 1910, and was finally destroyed only in 2004 by the Boxing Day Indian Ocean tsunami.

 Approaching Curieuse Island

Approaching Curieuse Island (Photo by James Russell)

The island also has rich conservation history, as the island manager Allen tells me upon my arrival. Fellow New Zealander Don Merton led the eradication of cats and rats from the island in 2000. Unfortunately the rat eradication was not successful, possibly through rapid reinvasion from nearby Praslin, but survival in the mangrove forest is now also a likely explanation – tropical rat eradications can be challenging. The managers would not be comfortable embarking on eradication again until they have a better handle on biosecurity, with dozens of tourists arriving daily from Praslin on chartered boats for walks and BBQs. Nonetheless, its clear to me that Curieuse is the next step in further rodent eradications to secure the wildlife of the Seychelles.

An Aldabra Giant Tortoise looks particularly giant close-up (Photo by James Russell)

Between 1978 and 1982 Aldabra giant tortoises were introduced and are now a numerous tourist attraction, including a hatchery of variously sized baby tortoises. Like its larger neighbour the island is also home to a coco de mer (Lodoicea maldivica) forest with black parrots (Coracopsis barklyi). The Seychelles blue pigeon (Alectroenas pulcherrimus) is also abundant on the island – an adorable bird even though it looks like a pigeon with a chicken’s head. As the sun sets I laze about in my hammock swinging on the beach watching the pigeons jostle for position in their roosting tree, a scene made only more comical when a Seychelles fruit bat crashes in to the party.

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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.