The Seychelles has a long history of conservation measures and management initiatives from the first decrees of De Malavois in the late 1770s and his initiative to establish reserves for giant tortoises in the late 1780s.
In 1874 the first nature reserve was established when the Fond Ferdinand – Anse Marie-Louise area was purchased as Coco-de-Mer reserve – the land purchases were in fact made between 1876-1878.
Most early legislation and measures however were species specific rather than area designation and focused primarily on key resource species like tortoises and turtles.
The modern era of conservation and protected area policy in Seychelles is commonly considered to have started in the 1960s, stimulated by the works of Swabey (1960) and Jeffrey (1962), with various protected area based legislation being enacted notably: the Protection of Shells Ordinance (1965), the Wild Birds Protection (Nature Reserves) Regulations 1966 and most notably the National Parks and Nature Conservancy Ordinance 1969.
These legal tools were put in context however by the work of John Procter. Mr. Procter was appointed by the then UK government Ministry of Overseas Development to advise the Seychelles Government on:
“…the establishment of national parks and other reserves covering areas of scientific and cultural interest in the islands.”
Procter’s subsequent 1970 report and recommendations provided the basis for the development of the 1971 Government white paper entitled the “Conservation Policy in the Seychelles”.
This policy accompanied the development of the Seychelles Tourism Policy (1969) and the coming into force of two ordinances: the 1969 National Parks and Nature Conservancy Ordinance (latterly known as the National Parks and Nature Conservancy Act or the NPNCA) and the 1970 Town and Country Planning Ordinance. This suite of initiatives was aimed at providing a framework to effectively manage the foreseen rapid expansion of development that would accompany the opening of the international airport. Thereby enabling the wise development of the tourism industry whilst providing for:
“the attractions that tourists will seek, and above all to protect the natural beauty of these islands, which from all points of view, including tourism, is probably our greatest asset”.
The 1971 conservation policy therefore sought to set out in detail how the Government intended to protect this asset through the designation of PAs where “characteristic wildlife could be conserved in its natural surroundings, for the enjoyment of the public”.
The policy cited the below definition of conservation as its general objective:
Conservation to mean “the wise use or management of resources so that at the end the resource is no poorer or less able to renew itself than at the beginning” and sought to attain this objective over the long term by observing the following principles:
- Examples of natural habitats must be preserved for the people of Seychelles and for the world at large, in order to make it possible to study individual species and to retain biological systems where natural processes can be studied and put to beneficial use by man.
- Extensively distributed natural resources should be protected and developed to ensure that they remain a source of food, materials or revenue.
- Appropriate areas should be protected and developed for public recreation and enjoyment, both for the people of Seychelles and for tourists.
The policy expanded upon the role of the National Parks and Nature Conservancy Commission established under the NPNCA. It stated the requirement for public notice and the provision for affected parties to make representations for consideration, before the decision on designation of a PA is made as set out in the National Parks and Nature Conservancy (Procedure for Designation of areas) Regulations, 1971. It states that it is intended that each PA will have a management plan. It furthermore expresses the objective that in the long term National Parks in so far as is possible should be state-owned whilst recognizing the NPNCA provides the Commission with “…adequate power for the efficient management of national parks, even though they may be partly in private ownership.”
The policy then sets out an agenda for the designation of PA’s, noting that the ongoing process of establishment should be guided by expanding knowledge and research, and that the listing provided in no way precluded the designation of additional areas in the future.
To this day, the Conservation Policy white paper remains the only official explicit Policy statement with regard to PAs in Seychelles and, having never been officially rescinded, remains policy today almost by default. This however would be very much a simplification of the work undertaken (including legal developments) in the interim much of which has reviewed, commented upon, made recommendations regarding or had implications for PA policy in Seychelles.”