SIF AGM held on Aldabra and new board announced
(SIF board and staff members at AGM on Aldabra)
The future direction of Seychelles’ two UNESCO World Heritage Sites – Aldabra Atoll and the Vallée de Mai – was mapped out on Aldabra when SIF’s Board of Trustees met for the organisation’s Annual General Meeting.
A mix of local and international experts, the new SIF Board spent three days on the atoll to review the last twelve months of research, conservation, management and outreach carried out by the organisation, and to set the direction for 2013.
2012 was a momentous year for Aldabra and SIF. Amongst the highlights was the eradication in August of Aldabra’s last feral goat, which was the final remnant of an invasive species which had been introduced to the atoll over 100 years ago. In March the Aldabra renewable energy system came on line, generating over 98% of the island’s electricity needs from solar energy and making it the largest off-grid electricity system in the country. And in December celebrations were held to mark the 30th anniversary of the inscription of Aldabra as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The threat of piracy prevented many people from visiting the atoll, but SIF continued to welcome visitors to the Vallée de Mai. Over 77,000 foreign visitors toured the endemic palm forest and marvelled at the Coco de Mer, black parrot and other unique species. The funding generated from visitors to Vallée de Mai enabled SIF to continue to run its daily operations on Aldabra, Praslin and Mahé financially independently.
Amongst the work conducted at the Vallée de Mai in 2012, researchers spent time examining the breeding ecology of the Coco de Mer, investigating the tiny sooglossid frogs that live in the palm leaf litter, analysing the genetics of the two species of chameleon found there and monitoring the breeding and feeding of the black parrots.
Funding from the European Union (EU) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) enabled SIF to carry on with two major projects: research and work to remove invasive species which threaten Aldabra and the Vallée de Mai; and a review of Aldabra’s marine ecosystem. Both projects will continue over the next few years and were an important topic of discussion at the Board meeting.
The Board also focused on the Aldabra House project. Announced by the chairman, Ambassador Maurice Loustau-Lalanne, during the Aldabra 30th anniversary celebrations, the project is designed to bring some of the Aldabra experience to Mahé. The SIF head quarters will be designed to serve as a visitor attraction featuring outdoor and indoor exhibits, displays and activities designed to recreate the magic of Aldabra on Mahé, bridging the 1000km gap between the inner islands and Aldabra. During the AGM the Board discussed financing and architectural options to progress the project.
In late 2012 some changes were made to the SIF Board, to reflect the broad range of national and international expertise needed to protect, conserve and research Seychelles’ two UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The current SIF Board is:
- Ambassador Maurice Loustau-Lalanne, Chairperson
- Dr Frauke Fleischer-Dogley, Chief Executive Officer
- Dr Marie-Reine Hoareau, Secretary General Representing the Ministry of Education/UNESCO
- Mr Victorin Laboudallon, Representing the Ministry of Environment/Praslin
- Mr Joceyln Ah-Yu, Mauritius Commercial Bank of Seychelles
- Ms Jeanette Larue, Ministry of Environment
- Mr Pat Lablache, Chairman of the Island Development Company
- Professor Stephen Blackmore CBE, Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh
- Dr Lindsay Turnbull, University of Zurich
- Professor Peter Edwards, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology
- Dr Geoffroy Mauvais, IUCN
- Dr Jack Grove, Marine Biologist
- Mr Tim Smith, Eden Project