Press release

The message of the president, patron of the Seychelles Islands Foundation, on the 30th anniversary of Aldabra’s inscription as a UNESCO world heritage site

December 18, 2012

Aldabra is a source of pride for all Seychellois, one which we share with the people of the World.

Since it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in November 1982, we have shared with the World, not just the incredible beauty of Aldabra but also the knowledge which has been gained from conserving, researching and exploring this incredible place.

This is the enduring success of Aldabra; that it is not just exquisitely beautiful, but that it has served as an unparalleled living laboratory, a vast ongoing example of evolutionary and biological processes in action.

It is impossible to put a price on the value of the protection afforded to Aldabra over the past three decades. But protection on paper alone is not enough. Simply receiving the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site did not ensure the protection of Aldabra.

What has truly safeguarded this remarkable place, in the last thirty years and even before that, has been the tireless efforts and dedication of Seychelles’ conservationists, policy makers and their friends from across the globe.

As long ago as the 1870s, the father of the theory of evolution, Charles Darwin, was petitioning the British government for the protection of Aldabra and its Giant land tortoises. 80 years later, the most prominent environmentalist of his era, the great marine biologist and explorer Jacques Cousteau, sought to purchase Aldabra and safeguard it as a bastion of conservation and environmental research.

In more recent times, a debt of gratitude is owed to the members of the British Royal Society whose action and influence –while Aldabra still formed part of the British administered BIOT – helped ensure that Aldabra did not become a military base.

Our thanks are also due to the international academics who recognised and promoted Aldabra’s inestimable value, perhaps most notable amongst them, Prof David Stoddart.

However, the custodianship of Aldabra for thirty years has relied upon the hard work and commitment of a broad community of Seychellois conservationists. And I include in this group, not just the scientists and researchers who have studied the atoll’s ecological diversity, but also those who have worked on Aldabra as mechanics and skippers, field workers and cooks.

We recognise them all as leaders in the conservation field, because without their efforts this unparalleled scientific opportunity would remain unstudied.

That the staff on Aldabra have achieved such a high degree of conservation success is due to the unparalleled expertise of the SIF Board, which guides their actions. The Board has a unique structure. Since its inception it has been made up of individuals at the head of their respective fields, both locally and internationally. This unique blend of international and national expertise has created a dynamic, insightful and principled organisation, entirely committed to the protection of Aldabra, and for that I thank the current members of the SIF Board and all those who have served before them.

As President of Seychelles I take enormous pride in my position as the patron of SIF. Created specifically to manage and research what would become Seychelles’ two World Heritage Sites, Aldabra and the Vallée de Mai, the SIF has achieved many remarkable successes.

Its custody of Aldabra has seen the number of nesting marine turtles reach record levels for the last 100 years, the population of giant land tortoises reach a secure, stable level and the Aldabra flightless rail reintroduced to its former range. In the last six months two remarkable landmark achievements have been attained: the atoll now generates over 100% of the electricity it consumes from solar energy panels, installed and brought on line in April; and the last of the invasive goats, introduced to the atoll over 100 years ago, has finally been eradicated, returning Aldabra to its natural, goat-free state.

Aldabra is an internationally recognised symbol of Seychelles’ environmental commitment. I am proud to be patron of SIF and I commend and congratulate the current SIF family, on Mahé, Praslin and Aldabra and I congratulate and thank the many, many people who, over the last thirty years have contributed to making Aldabra Africa’s oldest UNESCO Marine World Heritage Site and one of the most celebrated sites of outstanding importance in the World.