With an area of just under 20 km2, Silhouette is the third largest of Seychelles’ granitic islands. In terms of biodiversity it is one of the least disturbed islands in the archipelago, its rugged and heavily forested mountains having spared it from significant human occupation. Its fauna and flora encompass a high degree of endemism and the endemic insectivorous Sheath-tailed Bat is the rarest species of bat in the world, with a world population of less than 100 individuals, about a quarter of them on Silhouette.
However, Silhouette has not been spared from invasive species unwittingly or deliberately imported by people. At unknown times in the past, but during its agricultural period, Black Rats, Cats, Common Mynas and Barn Owls gained a foothold and established populations that have doubtless impacted indigenous animals and plants, but little detail is known of this in relation to Silhouette. Elsewhere, however, there is good evidence that Black Rats, Cats and Common Mynas can have devastating effects on native fauna.
The advent of tourism and the construction and running of the high-end Hilton Labriz Resort and Spa provided further opportunities for some of these invasive animals. Common Mynas, in particular, capitalise on the foods available in the restaurants. On Silhouette these birds are remarkably confiding in people (much more so than we have seen elsewhere) and regard food handling areas, and even dining tables occupied by often startled tourists, as targets for stealing pieces of croissant to omelette, papaya to banana, chicken to fish, pasta to pizza, all prepared to the highest standards by the hotel’s excellent chefs.
This problem is not unique to Silhouette. It is common to restaurants with outdoor dining facilities or open to ingress by birds at tourist resorts in Seychelles and elsewhere. Frequently, restaurant managers have sought a solution to these food thefts by mynas and other birds by providing bread and other foods for the birds prior to the breakfast or lunch times. This is based on the assumption that by meal times the birds will be satiated and will not be searching for more food. But this is simply not true. Bird feeding has rarely prevented the ingress of birds into the restaurants; in fact, it attracts birds to the restaurant areas so the birds are on hand to capitalise on the greater variety of foods available when tourists arrive for their meals. Additionally, bird feeding has certainly provided the birds with additional food supplies, leading to larger populations!
Our visit to Silhouette was aimed at recommending methods to reduce the propensity of mynas to seek food at the hotel’s restaurants. Our advice includes small changes to restaurant
practices, requests for guests not to feed birds at the restaurants or at their villas, and the initiation of a trapping programme to reduce the number of mynas in the hotel’s vicinity. In addition to benefiting the hotel’s guests and staff, we hope that the project will in the longer term benefit the island’s wider environment by paving the way for the complete eradication of mynas from the island. This would help to protect the endemic birds already inhabiting the island, especially the diminutive Seychelles Kestrel. It would also pave the way for the introduction of some of Seychelles’ other endemic birds that are under threat on the islands where they survive, such as the Seychelles Black Parrot, whose only home at present is on Praslin, and the Seychelles Paradise Flycatcher, found on La Digue but also recently introduced to Denis Island, where it is thriving following the eradication of mynas from that island.