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All I want for my birthday is rain

Today it’s my birthday. Usually at my age people ask for nice watches or Apple products, a new tablet perhaps or tickets to an event. But all I want is some rain on Cousin Island, and not just a little bit! I’m talking about 48 hours of solid heavy downpour, a proper good drenching, cats and dogs sort of rain.

In the Seychelles, unlike my native England, weather is not a common conversation topic. I guess when you more or less have year round sunshine and 28-32 degrees (Celsius) temperature there isn’t too much fluctuation to discuss.

However at the moment a lot of Seychellois seem particularly interested in one thing, the rain. From December until the end of February or early March Seychelles usually experiences its wettest period of the year yet this year we (on Cousin Island) haven’t seen any rain since 5th January.

Now, you may well be sat in cold wet Blighty or Europe thinking “it’s alright for some…” but the thing is, it’s not. Cousin Island relies on the rain this time of year to fill our well, water our vegetation and fill up the underground aquifers we use for tap water all year round. And we are starting to struggle. This time last year the marsh area surrounding our well was wet and soggy. We often have to suspend the water pump from the roof as the water level gets so high.

However at the moment there is no surface water at all. This makes life really tricky not only for the staff who have to run the water pump more often but also for all the birds and animals that rely on this marsh as their source of water – where will the tortoises wallow when there is no water or even gloopy mud? Luckily for them we have several man made rock pools around the island that we keep topped up to supply water but now with such shortages even this will start to be difficult.
The water also helps create a damp forest floor of leaf litter, an ideal place for all manner of insects and bugs to develop and they in turn feed many of the species Cousin is so famous for such as the Seychelles Magpie Robin and the huge number of Skinks. With far less water its far less damp meaning the vegetation rots slower and therefore the insects and tiny invertebrates don’t reproduce quickly or are harder to find.

This time last year we had lots of water throughout the Christmas period until the middle of February. This year we are nearly dry. So, this year, all I want for my birthday is rain.

Tom Hiney

Chief Warden, Cousin Island Special Reserve