September 2014 – As part of its pioneering Seychelles White-Eye Reintroduction Project, North Island will conduct a census during September and October 2014 to record the latest numbers on the Island of this rare endemic bird. The survey will also calculate the growth of the Seychelles white-eye population since the last survey (June 2013), thus assessing the extent to which a thriving indigenous ecosystem has been recreated on North Island.
The Endangered Seychelles White-Eye (Zosterops modestus) – now a thriving population on North Island
“Reintroduction of the Critically Endangered Seychelles white-eye became possible due to our Noah’s Ark rehabilitation programme, whereby over the last 11 years exotic vegetation was cleared, pests eradicated, and indigenous flora replanted on North Island. We have been amazed by the project’s success since the reintroduction of 25 white-eyes in July 2007, with our June 2013 count sitting on about 68 birds. This indicates an average 18% annual increase in population since the first release”, said CJ Havemann, North Island Environmental Manager.
The Seychelles White-Eye Reintroduction Project is part of the Species Action Plan and the Island Conservation Society’s Rehabilitation of Island Ecosystems Project. The white-eye is entirely restricted to the granitic islands of the Seychelles with its current population estimated at no more than 400 individuals. The main threat it faces is habitat loss; the Recovery Programme focuses on increasing the species’ range thus making it less vulnerable.
“In 2007, we were delighted to be designated as a “host island” by the Seychelles government, meaning that North Island was deemed to be a place where endangered indigenous species could be safely introduced. After the initial reintroduction of the white-eye, we became responsible for approximately 8% of the 2007 global population of this special bird. By demonstrating the continued success of the project with our upcoming census, we hope to be able to introduce other threatened species, such as the Seychelles magpie-robin (Copsychus sechellarum)”, added Havemann.
The 2013 survey also assessed the breeding success of the population, and estimated that 30 juveniles had successfully fledged in the previous year. Thus, the majority of white-eyes on North Island are now ‘Nordois’ – that is, hatched there, proving that the population has firmly established itself independent of the original birds.
“We are optimistic that our upcoming survey will show a further increase in the population of Seychelles white-eyes on North Island and also give us additional information on their habitat preferences so that our Environmental Team can assess the remaining rehabilitation challenges, and the degree of success achieved to date”, commented North Island GM, Nick Solomon.
A number of seabird species have meanwhile begun breeding again on North Island, further proof of the success of the ongoing rehabilitation programme. These include the white-tailed tropicbird (Phaethon lepturus lepturus) which is something of a symbol of Seychelles, featuring prominently in the livery of Air Seychelles aircraft.