Cousin Island is a small, 27 hectare, granitic island around two kilometres away from Praslin island. Until the late 1960s it was a plantation of coconuts and other crops. Domestic animals ran loose and wildlife was exploited for food and for sale. By 1959 the status of wildlife was seriously depleted. The revelation that the last surviving population of the Seychelles warbler, numbering only 26 birds, was confined to the island, rallied conservation efforts. In an attempt to save the Seychelles warbler the International Council for Bird Preservation (now Birdlife International) purchased Cousin for conservation in 1968 by funds raised from an international campaign.
The area was designated a ‘Special Reserve’ under Seychelles law in 1973 with the main goal being to conserve biodiversity. The Special Island is a land-and-sea reserve extending 400 metres offshore and thereby protecting the surrounding fringing reefs. Cousin was managed internationally until 1998, when the management was transferred to the Nature Seychelles. It is now successfully run and protected by a local team, self-funded through eco-tourism.
Cousin has been successfully restored to a natural state by removing coconut seedlings and the controlling of invasive species allowing natural flora to recover. The island’s vegetation now serves as a sanctuary for many endemic species of land birds, and an important breeding site for seabirds. From the remaining 26 Seychelles warblers the population rapidly increased to 320 by 1982 as their habitat was reverted to a natural state. The warblers were then transferred to Aride, Cousine and Denis islands to secure their long term survival. The species is no longer considered critically endangered with a population of 3,500 birds on the four islands.
Five Seychelles’ land birds are found on Cousin as well as seven species of sea birds in numbers exceeding 20,000. Five endemic lizard species also thrive on this island, achieving one of the highest lizard densities per hectare in the world. Other species found on Cousin include: two species of sea turtle that nest on Cousin beach, Aldabra giant tortoises, ghost crabs, hermit crabs and giant millipedes.
- Information sign at Cousin island