One of the most significant aspects of my experience on Cousin Island Special Reserve has been being surrounded by wild animals who (for the most part) don’t mind having me around. Whilst here, I have had a lot of interactions with animals for the purposes of research.
Both turtle monitoring and the seabird monitoring were incredibly educational experiences. Observing a turtle whilst she’s nesting is definitely one of the most special things I’ve seen, and I have developed a real fondness for the seabirds and their chicks who’s progress we monitored in the weeks after they hatched.
Being an observer of nature in this way has been an enjoyable and interesting experience. What to me was an unexpectedly powerful experience however, was simply sharing a space with wild animals without the specific reason of observing or studying them.
I’ve spent most of my life living in cities, which is great in many ways, but means my interactions with animals in daily life are limited to pets, pigeons, tube mice and the occasional 3am fox. It’s rare that I get the opportunity to spend any extended amount of time in close proximity to animals.
Despite having studied biology, I actually spend a lot of time being quite removed from nature. Even when I do spend time in nature, I am there as an outsider and my presence is such an intrusion to most animals I come across that I don’t see them for more than a few seconds (this is also the case for most wildlife in the city).
The complete opposite is true on Cousin Island where, even after two months, the sheer quantity of wildlife still amazes me, and most animals don’t seem too bothered by having a few humans wander around.
Almost tripping over a skink (several times) as you walk from the bedroom to the kitchen, having breakfast whilst a giant tortoise naps just beyond the porch, and watching the sunset from the beach whilst crabs mill around at your feet and sea birds screech and swoop overhead are all experiences which remind you in a very real way that people are not just observers of the world of animals, but that this is the same world of which we are a part, something that can be difficult to feel when you’re in a city.
The reason I think volunteering with Nature Seychelles on Cousin was a significant experience for me, and would be good for other people to experience is the fact that it inspires in a completely positive way a desire to preserve nature and wildlife that goes beyond an intellectual understanding.
Though many people see conservation and the environment as important things to care about, statistics and facts, which often focus on negatives, for me at least, just don’t evoke the same kind of passion.