Hope for Seychelles' last Critically Endangered species
The first Seychelles Paradise-flycatcher Terpsiphone corvina chicks to fledge successfully outside La Digue Island, Seychelles for over 60 years is flying on Denis Island, a coral island in the inner Seychelles group. The newly-fledged birds are flying well, very noisy, and being fed by their parents –"typical normal and healthy flycatcher chicks", according to Nirmal Shah, Director of BirdLife Partner Nature Seychelles, the Species Guardian for the paradise-flycatcher.
The paradise-flycatcher is the only Seychelles species still listed as Critically Endangered. Formerly Critically Endangered Species including Seychelles Magpie-robin Copsychus sechellarum, Seychelles White-eye Zosterops modestus and Seychelles Scops-owl Otus insularis have all been downlisted as a result of conservation action. The population of the paradise-flycatcher has been steadily increasing in recent years. In 1996 there were 69-83 pairs; this had risen to 104-139 pairs by the last comprehensive survey in 2000.
Seychelles Paradise-flycatchers, probably "overspill" birds from the population on La Digue, are regularly seen on neighbouring islands, but have been unable to establish viable populations. The reintroduction to Denis Island is part of a three-year project, funded by the UK Government's Darwin Initative, and carried out by Nature Seychelles together with the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE) and the collaboration of other organisations and the Seychelles Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources.
"We predict that we will have a large enough population to downlist it to Endangered in the next two years or so" —Nirmal Shah, Nature Seychelles
Seychelles Paradise-flycatcher requires mature stands of indigenous badamier Terminalia catappa and takamaka Calophyllum innophylum trees. However, its habitat requirements may be less strict than previously thought. As the population on La Digue has increased, a number of birds have established territories in open woodland with housing encroachment, and an increasing number of tree species are used for nesting.
Nature Seychelles began ecosystem restoration on Denis Island in 2002, with funding from two Global Environment Facility projects facilitated by the World Bank and with the collaboration of the island owners, and this work has continued under the current Darwin Initiative-funded flycatcher project. The island is free of alien predators.
Last November, 23 Paradise-flycatchers were translocated from La Digue to Denis Island by Nature Seychelles and DICE, in collaboration with the La Digue Development Board and other partners. Nature Seychelles currently knows the whereabouts of 21 of these birds, with the recent reappearance of a male which had been replaced or ousted from his territory by another young male.
It is believed that the population on Denis could reach 40-50 birds. Other islands are being assessed for their suitability for future translocations.
"We predict that we will have a large enough population to downlist it to Endangered in the next two years or so", said Nirmal Shah. "This will be another huge triumph for Nature Seychelles with its international partners BirdLife, the RSPB and DICE."
Watch a video explaining how Nature Seychelles helped prevent the extinction of Seychelles Warbler
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Credits: Nature Seychelles, BirdLife