Two remarkable coincidences in Japanese/Anglo/Seychelles relationships

NHK Cameraman Keishi Matsuse and Director Ryo Ishigaki filming Sooty Terns off Bird Island’s north-west coast (Photo: Chris Feare)

In 1994 I arrived on Bird Island ring Sooty Terns and to search for birds that I had ringed in 1993 as part of a long-term programme of ringing aimed at investigating the survival of adults and juveniles. This was to provide information that would help to estimate the number of eggs that could be safely harvested commercially (for human consumption) each year without harming the Seychelles Sooty Tern populations.

On my arrival I was told that a group from Japanese television, NHK, was on the island to film for a programme they were making on Sooty Terns. We were unaware of each other’s presence and objectives but our shared interests led us to work together on Bird Island. The film’s Director was Fujiwara Masanobu and among his team was Takesato Watanabe, the film’s Coordinator. They asked me, along with John Collie (then acting Director of the Seychelles Government Department of Conservation) to join them on a chartered catamaran to visit Desnoeufs, the southernmost island of the Amirantes and the island from which Sooty Tern eggs were harvested for markets in the granitic islands. In the event, rough seas prevented a landing on Desnoeufs, but we circumnavigated the island and the film crew interviewed us several times during the sail to inform them what we knew about Seychelles Sooty Terns at that stage. Some months after the expedition Mr Masanobu kindly sent me a video of the programme they had made, which constituted a programme in a series “World living style of animals”.

NHK Assistant Director Kawai Youta controlling a drone to take aerial photographs of Bird Island’s Sooty Tern colony (Photo: Chris Feare)

On 26 August this year, Christine and I were awaiting the arrival of the daily flight from Mahe. Just before the arrival of the scheduled morning flight, a chartered flight arrived and began unloading heavy aluminium boxes of the type used for camera equipment, while four men of oriental appearance walked towards the reception area. They proved to be a team from NHK, whose mission was to film for another programme on Sooty Terns in a new series “Darwin’s amazing animals”. The leader of the team was none other than Takesato Watanabe! Bird Island’s management had not told us about their arrival, and the NHK team was unaware of our presence on the island. As soon as we discovered each other’s overlapping interests Takesato and I renewed acquaintances and began further collaboration.

Chris being interviewed more formally by Takesato Watanabe (Photo: Christine Larose)

Takesato is the Coordinator for the new series and along with him the team comprised the Director Ryo Ishigaki, Cameraman Keishi Matsuse and Assistant Director Kawai Youta. They spent a week on Bird Island with us and worked all hours from dawn until midnight each day, making their own observations during filming and of course using technologies that were not available for the first programme 25 years earlier. All of them showed huge enthusiasm for the Sooty Terns and their interactions with other wildlife on the island. Along with Rachel and Christine, we had many discussions and some formal filmed interviews as we helped to provide information on our recent findings about Sooty Tern behaviour, both on the island and our current investigations of their lives at sea.

Takesato Watanabe, Keishi Matsuse and Ryo Ishigaki on Bird Island (Photo: Rachel Bristol)

It was a delight to share our knowledge with the team and to enjoy their company and good humour. We greatly look forward to seeing the programme in due course and wonder if Takesato and I will be able to undertake an update in another 25 years’ time!!!

We bid farewell to the NHK team: Keishi Matsuse, Chris Feare, Christine Larose, Takesato Watanabe, Rachel Bristol, Ryo Ishigaki and Kawai Youta at Bird Island’s “airport”.

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