The Vallee de Mai reserve consists of a well-preserved palm forest. (Gerard Larose)
Researchers working with the Vallee de Mai Special Reserve on Praslin, Seychelles’ second most populated island, say they want to study the impact of tourism at the UNESCO World Heritage site in the coming years.
The statement was made on Thursday by Annabelle Constance, Seychelles Islands Foundation‘s (SIF) projects and science coordinator, in a presentation at a symposium to mark 40 years since the Vallee de Mai’s inscription as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
“Vallee de Mai is the most visited natural site in Seychelles and up till now, we have not really studied the impact of human movement throughout the site and so this is one of the main areas of research that we want to focus on in the coming years,” said Constance in her presentation.
The Vallee de Mai reserve consists of a well-preserved palm forest, and the flagship species is the island’s endemic coco de mer as well as five other endemic palms.
It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983, qualifying under all four natural site criteria, which are natural beauty, geological and evolutionary significance, ongoing biological process, and biodiversity and conservation.
The site is managed by the Seychelles Islands Foundation (SIF), a public trust mandated to protect and manage the UNESCO World Heritage properties of the island nation. The two sites are the Vallee de Mai and the Aldabra Atoll and SIF also manages the Fond Ferdinand Nature Reserve on Praslin.
In 2022, the Vallee de Mai reserve welcomed over 110,000 visitors, which is why according to SIF it is crucial to understand and manage the long-term impacts of tourism on the site.
|Participants of the symposium to mark 40 years since the Vallee de Mai’s inscription as a UNESCO World Heritage site. (Seychelles Nation) Photo License: CC-BY|
“We all know Vallee de Mai as a place where many people visit, but few know of the much scientific work being done there every day, and today we want to share our research and findings with other people, so that they may understand that this is a place where science is also at its centre,” said the chief executive of SIF, Dr Frauke Fleischer-Dogley.
During an address to launch the symposium, Seychelles’ President Wavel Ramkalawan, the patron of SIF, said that it is the responsibility of every Seychellois to protect the garden, which he described as a treasure.
“I want to urge all Seychellois who have never visited Vallee de Mai to find a way to do so, as that is the only way to truly understand the treasure that we have on Praslin,” he added.
The nature reserve is one of two places in Seychelles where the iconic coco-de-mer, known as the “flagship species of global significance” grows in its natural state.
Praslin is also the only place on earth where one can find the Seychelles’ national bird, the black parrot, which uses the Vallee de Mai as its main breeding ground.
SIF is the longest established local organisation working in nature conservation and has taken a pioneering management approach by twinning the Vallee de Mai and the Aldabra Atoll.
The Foundation is mandated and dedicated to ensuring that the two sites are well-managed protected areas where conservation, research, education and tourism are sustainably balanced.
A major focus is on scientific research to direct, support and improve the evidence base for conservation management of the unique biodiversity and ecosystems of these two very different sites.
“We are very proud that we can celebrate this anniversary, as it shows the effort that Seychelles has put into maintaining the site as it was over 1,000 years ago, despite changes around it,” Fleischer-Dogley added.