When you think about the world’s leading countries, Seychelles is probably not the country that tops your list; in fact, it’s not even on many world maps! But this week Seychelles took its rightful place as one of the world’s environmental leaders when its government designated over half (50.59 percent) of its land under formal protection.
That is far more than the target of 17 percent agreed upon by the parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) last year in Nagoya, Japan. Getting that target was seen as an achievement since many countries had failed to meet the original 10 percent targets, especially given the dismal trends in ecosystem loss and the increasing threat to species existence presented in Global Biodiversity Outlook, the CBD’s scientific publication. But thankfully some countries, like Seychelles, aren’t settling for being average anymore.
As we come to understand the contribution of natural ecosystems to national economies and cultural identity, decisions to better manage and protect these values become inevitable. But the people of the Seychelles have long seen the value of nature and quietly taken giant strides on environmental issues. They have brought unique species like the Seychelles magpie-robin (Copsychus sechellarum) back from the brink of extinction — increasing the population from fewer than 20 individuals to more than 150, resulting in official downlisting of their threat status.
In the 1960s, Seychelles also hosted one of the world’s first public environmental movements, saving an island wilderness where the last flightless birds and giant tortoises of the Indian Ocean still roam free.
As a Seychellois, I am very proud of our little nation and glad to see her heading to a greener and more sustainable future. I hope this big commitment by a small country encourages bigger nations the world over to take bold steps forward, too.
Conrad Savy is Senior Science Advisor for Business & Government Engagement in CI’s Science and Knowledge division.