Thursday, September 13, 2012

Seychelles animals among World’s Most Endangered



 World's Most Endangered: Seychelles Earwig
(photo:NMNH)
Most people who come across earwigs think they are creepy and want to kill them immediately. But there is one earwig that no one in Seychelles has seen alive. The Seychelles Earwig is known from a specimen collected at Morne Blanc on Mahe island.

The Seychelles Earwig, the Seychelles Sheath tailed bat (sousouri banan), the Seychelles Moominia snail have been included among the 100 most endangered species in the world. The report by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and IUCN has been released at the World Conservation Congress taking place in Korea.


The 100 species, from 48 different countries are first in line to disappear for ever if nothing is done. Part of the problem is that none of these species provide humans with obvious benefits. "The donor community and conservation movement are leaning increasingly towards a ‘what can nature do for us’ approach, where species and wild habitats are valued according to the services they provide for people," says Professor Jonathan Baillie, ZSL’s director of conservation.

This has made it increasingly difficult for conservationists to protect the most threatened species on the planet. We have an important moral and ethical decision to make: Do these species have a right to survive or do we have a right to drive them to extinction?

The Seychelles Earwig, scientific name Antisolabis seychellensis, is a small, blackish insect measuring about 5 millimetres. It is found on the forest floor in leaf litter in the damp forest of Morne Blanc. The main threat is thought to be the degradation of the habitat by invasive trees, mostly cinnamon and zambrosa.

The Moominia snail, with the scientific name Moominia willii and named after the collector Joanna Willi, is a land snail endemic to Seychelles. It has been found only on Silhouette island at 350 metres altitude, where it is apparently restricted to two locations at Gratte Fesse spanning an area of about .02 km². It lives in the leaf axils of of the endemic Pandanus tree, Pandanus hornei. It seems that habitat destruction is a big problem because of its extremely restricted habitat.

The Seychelles Sheath-tailed bat, scientific name Coleura seychellensis and known locally as sousouri banan is the rarest bat in the world with only 30 to100 individuals left. Once common, it went into a massive decline during the 20th century. Studies and monitoring by Nature Seychelles, British Universities and the Ministry of Environment show that populations on Praslin and La Digue islands have disappeared. But two previously unknown roosts were discovered on Mahe island, which along with Silhouette island are the only sites harboring the bat.

World's Most Endangered: Seychelles
Sheath-tailed Bat (photo: S.Lang)
The bat prefers feeding in coastal areas where there are mature trees. But habitat destruction, disturbance of the roosting sites and pesticides are the main dangers. Rapid development, especially tourism, threaten the coastal areas of Mahe. Roost sites and feeding areas must be urgently protected otherwise this species will become extinct .

Nature Seychelles has been monitoring the roosting areas of the sheath tailed bat on Mahe for several years. But we had to stop about two years ago because we ran out of resources to continue. All efforts to raise funds to continue the monitoring have failed. Its a sorry state of affairs.

I believe there are many other Seychelles animals that are so endangered they belong on this list. One of my personal favorites is Philibert's Leopard Butterfly - Phalanta philiberti - a beautiful butterfly species endemic to Seychelles which experts think could have became extinct in the 1960’s. I am convinced I saw one on North island before the island was developed.This butterfly has no Kreol name but large swarms had been recorded during the early 20th century. Populations apparently declined sometime in the mid 1960’s. A solitary specimen was collected in 1953 but the species was not observed afterwards.

Seychelles has many species that are very little known and are probably on the brink of extinction. Nothing is being done because they have no monetary value. But they are part of our natural capital. As the song by Joe Samy, Seychellois singer/songwriter, goes "They must not die"

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