Exciting Increase in Population of Endangered Seychelles White-Eye

Jan 19, 2015 Conservation
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Wilderness Collection is thrilled to announce the results of a recent census showing that the Seychelles White-Eye population on North Island has increased almost fourfold since the reintroduction of this rare species. From just 25 birds that were reintroduced in July 2007, there are now at least 93 individuals on North Island, 60 of which had been previously captured and ringed. From this data, as well as bird calls, the total population on North Island is estimated to be up to 101 birds, around one sixth of the global population.

Census reveals Seychelles White-Eye Population Has Increased Fourfold

As part of the ongoing Seychelles White-Eye Reintroduction Project, the census was conducted during September and November to determine the latest numbers of this endangered endemic bird on the Island. The positive results have provided scientists with valuable research data which will further assist Seychelles White-Eye conservation in the future.

Census Reveals Seychelles White-Eye Population Increased Fourfold

“This positive trend is a testament to the rehabilitation work that has been done on the Island as part of our Noah’s Ark project, while the details of the Island-wide survey will assist us in prioritising areas for future rehabilitation based on the birds’ habitat preferences,” said CJ Havemann, North Island Environmental Manager.

The Seychelles White-Eye is restricted entirely to the granitic islands of Seychelles and the current worldwide population is estimated to be no more than 650 individuals. The main threat it faces is habitat loss and so conservation efforts are focusing on increasing the species’ range, in an attempt to make it less vulnerable.

Census Reveals Seychelles White-Eye Population Increased Fourfold

The latest census was conducted through a variety of scientific methods, such as using recorded calls to lure the birds in, and mist nets to capture them. The 19 unmarked birds captured in the mist nets were each given a unique pattern of coloured leg-rings to facilitate future identification.

During this latest survey, just one of the original 25 White-Eyes was observed (meaning it is at least seven years old), indicating that the vast majority of White-Eyes on North are now ‘nordois’ – that is, hatched on the Island, proving that the population has firmly established itself independently of the original birds. Fledglings and a nestling seen during this latest survey are clear proof that the White-Eyes continue to breed well.

White-Eyes were observed in areas of North Island where they had previously been scarce, and were also heard singing from more inaccessible areas – both facts suggest that the population continues to grow and re-colonise new areas of the Island.

Objectives for the future will include more regular surveys, enhanced ringing efforts to reduce the number of unmarked birds, and rehabilitation of additional areas of North Island through the removal of invasive species and replanting with native shrubs and trees, especially berry-producing species to provide more food for the White-Eyes and other wildlife. 

Images © Marc Stickler

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By Nick Galpine

The call of the wild – and too many BBC wildlife documentaries – persuaded Nick to abandon the smoky steelworks of his childhood for the clear waters and immense skies of the Okavango Delta. Arriving at Mombo on the same truck as the first reintroduced white rhinos in late 2001, Nick soon realised (as did the rhinos) that this truly was heaven and earth. With the ashes of his return ticket to the UK cooling in a campfire somewhere on Chief’s Island, Nick spent the next several years helping monitor the first wild rhinos in Botswana in a decade. Several years of camp management across the Wilderness portfolio subsequently ensued but by early 2014 it was time to check out a different kind of jungle and Nick relocated to Johannesburg to focus on marketing, and pursue his interest in the manoeuvres of the world’s finest taxi drivers.

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