Seychelles’ Vallee de Mai to Undergo Tourism Impact Study After 40 Years as a World Heritage Site

PRASLIN, Seychelles – Researchers associated with Praslin’s Vallee de Mai Special Reserve have expressed their intention to investigate the consequences of tourism on this UNESCO World Heritage site in the future. Annabelle Constance, the project and science coordinator for the Seychelles Islands Foundation (SIF), outlined these research plans during a symposium held on Thursday to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Vallee de Mai’s World Heritage designation.

According to Seychelles News Agency, the Vallee de Mai, renowned as Seychelles’ most frequented natural site, has yet to undergo a comprehensive study on how human activity affects its environment. She highlighted that assessing the impacts of tourism is slated to be a primary research focus in the ensuing years. The reserve, noted for its pristine palm forest, is home to the endemic coco de mer and five other unique palm species.

The Vallee de Mai met all four criteria for natural sites when it was honored as a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1983. These criteria encompass natural beauty, geological and evolutionary importance, ongoing biological processes, and contributions to biodiversity and conservation efforts.

The stewardship of the Vallee de Mai, along with the Aldabra Atoll and the Fond Ferdinand Nature Reserve on Praslin, falls to the SIF. This public trust is charged with safeguarding and administering the UNESCO World Heritage properties of the archipelago.

The reserve reported over 110,000 visitors in 2022, emphasizing the necessity, from SIF’s perspective, of grasping and controlling the enduring effects of tourism on this cherished location.

Dr. Frauke Fleischer-Dogley, SIF’s chief executive, in her efforts to broaden public engagement, stressed the importance of acknowledging the site not only as a tourist destination but also as a hub of scientific inquiry.

President Wavel Ramkalawan of Seychelles, in his capacity as patron of SIF, implored all residents who have not yet explored the Vallee de Mai to experience firsthand its wonders, likening the reserve to a national treasure.

The Vallee de Mai stands as one of only two natural habitats for the coco-de-mer in Seychelles, recognized for its global ecological significance. Additionally, it serves as the exclusive breeding site for the black parrot, the national bird of Seychelles.

SIF’s pioneering efforts in conservation have established it as the foremost local entity in this field, with a management philosophy that harmonizes conservation, research, education, and tourism, especially between Vallee de Mai and Aldabra Atoll.

With a focus on scientific research, SIF is committed to fostering and refining the evidence-based strategies for conserving the biodiversity and unique ecosystems within its care.

Fleischer-Dogley closed her remarks by reflecting on Seychelles’ dedication to preserving the authenticity of the Vallee de Mai, maintaining its historical essence through sustained efforts in conservation and management.