The Sea Coconuts of Curieuse Island
I have been in the Seychelles for almost a week now and my experience has been like none other. Five other volunteers and I arrived on Curieuse Island and have been busy learning about everything we will be doing over the next month. It has been a week packed with information and activities, and I am looking forward to getting better and better at the tasks we will be doing here.
Today a group of us woke up early to go on a Coco de Mer survey. Coco de Mer trees, or “Coconut of the Sea” is a species of palm that is only found in the Seychelles, and more specifically, found on just two islands, one being Curieuse. It breaks quite a few records, one being that it has the biggest seed or ‘nut’ in the world. The Coco de Mer has a rich and important history that we were told about prior to going on the survey. The name for the coconuts comes from how they were first discovered – floating in the sea and washing up the shore in the Maldives. It was not until later that it was discovered they originated from the Seychelles, and had rolled off the islands and floated across the ocean. While floating nuts are not viable, the mystery of the coconuts generated interested from locals and tourists. Unfortunately, due to the rarity of the species, poaching and illegal trading of the coconuts was a problem that hurt the species numbers. Now, the trading and selling of Coco de Mer nuts is regulated and controlled and you are allowed to purchase them (if you can afford it!)
Part of our job as volunteers is to help the survival and protection of the species. After about an hour of hiking up mountains and climbing down valleys we arrived at the group of Coco de Mers we were surveying this week. We start by counting the leaves on the tree, counting how many nuts are on the tree and also measure the length the leaves have grown since the last survey – that’s the fun part. Scaling the trees and marking them off to find out how fast the tree is growing was definitely an experience I am looking forward to doing again. We are also trying to learn how the male trees pollinate the female trees. This is something that isn’t known yet, but the best guess is with the help of bees or geckos, so we are also on the lookout for any geckos on the trees and then record the time and species.
So far I have done turtle surveying, snorkeling, bird watching and now Coco de Mer-ring here on my short time on Curieuse and today’s trip is my favourite so far. While it was a hot and strenuous hike, I enjoyed the challenge and hope to get better and quicker at the survey in my future weeks.
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