Like many other delicate island ecosystems, Seychelles suffered a loss of biodiversity during early human history, which included the disappearance of most of the giant tortoises from its granite islands, the felling of coastal and mid-level forests, as well as the extinction of species such as birds Chestnut-flanked white-eye & Seychelles Parakeet, together with saltwater crocodile. Nevertheless, extinctions were far fewer in Seychelles than in many other islands, possibly due to the shorter period of human occupation. Today, the Seychelles are known for its success stories in protecting its flora and fauna and are home to the order of 75 endemic plant species, with another 25 species or so in the Aldabra group.
Tropical Plants & Flora of Seychelles
Coco de Mer
Nut and tree of the Coco-de-mer, a rare species of palm tree endemic to the Seychelles islands of Praslin and Curiese.
Before the discovery of Seychelles, coco de mer seeds were sometimes carried by the ocean currents to distant shores, such as those of the Maldives, where the tree was unknown, so mystic powers were attributed to the nuts as the parent tree was thought to grow under the sea, hence the name Coco-de-Mer.
It’s scientific name is Lodoicea maldivica, but is commonly known as the sea coconut, coco-de-mer or double coconut.
The species has male and female trees. The male have large catkins, three to four feet long, bearing numerous small yellow flowers, whose pollen gives off a heavy sweet smell. The female tree produces a “double coconut” that is shaped like a female pelvis and can weigh over 27kgs (75 lb), making it the largest fruit in the world. These nuts are the heaviest seeds in the vegetable kingdom and the seed-nut itself takes about a year to germinate and seven years to mature. The palm does not bear until its 25th year and takes several hundred years to reach its full size.
It is considered one of the most authentic and original souvenirs you can take home, but it does come with a price ranging from $150-$500.
To be able to carry it across the border you will need a export certificate, which is these days provided by the shop itself. Even though coco-de-mer nut is quite heavy, don’t be surprised if you consider it too light, as they are halfed and cut to remove the nut and then glued back, allowing easier transportation.
Medusagyne oppositifolia, the jellyfish tree, is a species of tree endemic to the island of Mahé.
The jellyfish tree is currently one of the rarest plant species in the world. Its total population is fewer than 30 plants scattered over three hilltops on Mahé Island. As such, it is listed as ‘endangered’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
This strange and ancient plant has so far resisted all efforts to be propagated.
It is up to 10m tall, with simple, leathery leaves up to 8 cm long. Leaves frequently become bright red before dropping.
Animals & Fauna of Seychelles
Aldabra Giant Tortoise
Aldabra giant tortoises populate many of the Seychelles’ islands, making the Aldabra population the largest in the world.
The granite islands also supported a distinct species of Seychelles giant tortoises, which until recently was believed to be extinct.
A small population of the Seychelles giant tortoise can now be found on Silhouette Island and this population looks set to grow thanks to a successful breeding program which has been put in place for them.
On the other hand, Aldabra Atoll, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to largest wild tortoise population in the world – there are 150 000 of them left, which is more than population of Seychelles.
Red Cardinal Fody
Seychelles Tiger Chameleon, endemic to Seychelles, found only on the islands of Mahe, Praslin, and Silhouette. It is quite unfortunate that this rare endemic species is being traded on the black market at a high value.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Climate Change, and Environment will soon begin drafting new regulations that prohibit the capture, possession, and trade of this species recently endorsed by the Cabinet of Ministers on the 6th January 2021.
Anyone who has any information on the illegal wildlife trade is advised to come forward to help in the preservation of this unique species.