Cousine island is 25 hectares (62 acres) in size; approximately 1.4km in length, 800m in width and is 100% dedicated to the preservation of the Seychelles environment. The vegetation consists of 95% endemic plants and is home to more than 7 land birds (Seychelles Magpie Robin, Seychelles White-eye, Seychelles Brush Warbler, Seychelles Fody/Tok Tok, Madagascan Fody, Seychelles Turtle Dove and Seychelles Blue Pigeon) and 9 breeding seabirds (Wedge-tailed Shearwater, Audobon Shearwater, Brown Noddy, Lessor Noddy, Sooty Tern, Fairy Tern, Bridal Tern, White-tailed Tropic Bird, Red-tailed tropic bird) as well as a variety of migratory birds.
The remaining 5% of vegetation is made up of indigenous fruit trees and vegetable plants that are used as a food source for the island’s guests and residents. Fruit bats feed on the Ficus trees and the island’s undergrowth is home to a variety of insects, lizards and gecko’s. The island is completely free of alien mammals after many years of restoration.
Migratory birds consider Cousine Island home during 6 months of the year and Hawksbill Turtle come ashore to nest and Green Turtles, rare to the Seychelles, nest occasionally throughout the year.
The Seychelles has a warm and tropical climate year round and has temperatures averaging between 25ºC and 35ºC. Sea surface temperatures range between 28ºC and 31ºC.
The first known record of ownership of Cousine Island was when the Island was sold by Louis Pouponneau to Pierre Hugon on the 25th December 1818. Thereafter, there have many land owners who exploited the natural resources found on the Island, such as harvesting the timber of the Casuarina tree for firewood for Praslin and Mahe. At the same time, they also took large numbers of Sooty tern eggs (removing between 8 000 to 14 000 eggs each year), which are a delicacy in the Seychelles. Sadly, they over-harvested the eggs and as a result the Sooty terns abandoned breeding on Cousine Island. Wedge-tailed shearwater chicks and adults, which are also considered a delicacy, were also taken in large numbers (up to 8000 chicks and several thousand adults per season).
Various crops were planted such as coconut and banana trees, tobacco and fatak (guinea grass Panicum maximum), and fish were caught on the surrounding reefs. These were sold to the market in Praslin. Many turtles which came up onto the beach to lay their eggs fell prey to human exploitation. Green turtles are prized for their edible flesh and Hawksbill turtles for both their flesh and their shells which were used in the manufacture of jewelry. Both these species nest on Cousine Island.
The situation changed in 1992 when the Island was purchased by the company Cousine Island Company Limited. After that, all farm animals (cattle, pigs, chickens) and all the Casuarina trees were removed, and an intensive rehabilitation program of the Island begun and aimed at restoring the Island to a natural state reflecting a time prior to humans. This included the large scale planting of indigenous and endemic trees (about 8000 from 1992 to date) and the removal of non-native plant species.
The Island has dramatically recovered from the historical over-harvesting and rehabilitation and protection efforts have been a huge success. Population numbers of Wedge-tailed shearwaters have recovered to well over 30 000 pairs. It has also seen the return of the Sooty terns after an absence of 30 years, however their numbers are still very low.
Today, Cousine Island is a safe haven for many species and is one of the few granitic Islands in the Seychelles that is entirely free from alien mammals (such as feral cats). Multiple reintroductions of native species have also been possible. The endangered Seychelles Magpie Robin was introduced in the year 1996 and over the years its’ population has fluctuated between 23 to 34 individuals (estimated carrying capacity) that are breeding well.
Cousine Island now has habitat to support thousands of nesting seabirds each year (including approximately 55 000 pairs of Lesser Noddies). Twenty giant tortoises were introduced to the Island between 1992 and 2004, and over the years many more were purchased or rescued and found a home on Cousine Island. They now roam the island freely and range from individuals as young as five years old to those few are estimated to be around 120 years old. A healthy population of the reintroduced Seychelles warbler is also successful. From a sad history of unsustainable over exploitation, to being rehabilitated and protected, Cousine Island is a true conservation success story and contributes to both Seychelles and global floral and faunal biodiversity.
What to do in Cousine Island
Cousine island - bird sanctuary
Enjoy an experience of nature at its purest on pristine Cousine Island, a bird nature reserve since 1968, and embark on the extraordinary opportunity to see the white-tailed tropicbird, the different species of terns and noddies as well as the hawksbill turtles.
With its varied habitats and diverse flora and fauna, Cousine Island is home to endemic species of land birds and hawksbill turtles coming to nest. Cousin Island has both coastal and in-land vegetation where mostly land birds can be spotted.
One quarter of a million birds nest on Cousin every year among whose number can be counted the Seychelles Fody, Seychelles Sunbird, Moor-hen, Red Turtle Dove, Terns, Frigate Birds and Shear waters. This is a birdwatcher’s paradise. Our excursion will bring you to the island by boat, taking in the spectacular sight of Cousine Island and provides a one-hour tour of Cousin followed by an opportunity for swimming in limpid waters.
Once a coconut plantation, a visit to this island is a splendid experience displaying the efforts that have gone into protecting and preserving bird life as well as other endemic species in Seychelles.
|Languages spoken||Seychellois Creole, English, French|
|Currency used||Seychellois Rupee|