Message of the President of the Republic of Seychelles, James Michel, Patron of the SIF, on the 30th Anniversary of the Vallée de Mai’s Inscription as a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Mon, 09 December 2013
Since it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in December 1983, we have shared with the World, not just the uniqueness of the Vallée de Mai but also the knowledge that has been gained from conserving, researching and exploring this incredible place.
The ancient forest of the Vallée de Mai is a living remnant of prehistoric forest and serves as an example of evolutionary and biological processes in action. Named the ‘Garden of Eden’ by some of the early explorers to Seychelles, the Vallée de Mai is home to a globally iconic species, the Coco de Mer, and the national bird of Seychelles, the Black Parrot.
These universally important species need our protection, but it is impossible to put a price on the value of the protection afforded to the Vallée de Mai over the past three decades. We all know that simply receiving the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site does not ensure the protection of the Vallée de Mai. It is due to the tireless work of many Seychellois, conservationists, and pioneers in the tourism industry, scientists, researchers and many other supporters that the Vallée de Mai has been so successful, and to them I offer our thanks. The custodianship of the Vallée de Mai for thirty years has relied upon the hard work and commitment of a broad community of Seychellois conservationists. And I include in this group especially those who have worked at the Vallée de Mai as fieldworkers, housekeepers, rangers, security officers and wardens. We recognise them all as leaders in the conservation field, because without their efforts this unique forest would not have been given the same protection.
That the staff at the Vallée de Mai have achieved such a high degree of conservation success is also due to the unparalleled expertise of the SIF Board, which guides their actions. The Board has a unique structure. Since its inception it comprises individuals at the head of their respective fields, both locally and internationally. This unique blend of expertise has created a dynamic, insightful and principled organisation, entirely committed to the protection of the Vallée de Mai, and for that I thank the current members of the SIF Board and all those who have served before them.
As President of Seychelles I take enormous pride in my position as patron of SIF. Created specifically to manage and research what would become Seychelles’ two World Heritage Sites, Aldabra and the Vallée de Mai, SIF has many remarkable successes.
Only 3 years ago I witnessed the opening of the new visitors’ centre and it is with satisfaction that I acknowledge the investment of the Vallée de Mai in the future of our children through the education centre and the implementation of the Friends of the Vallée de Mai club in schools on Praslin. The forest is the perfect place for children to learn about their natural environment and how they can aid the conservation of this incredible realm.
The site has become a world class tourist destination and the most visited natural site in Seychelles, bringing many socio-economic benefits to the Praslinois. This is in no small part due to the development of the visitors’ centre and services provided.
We must also not forget the financial support that the Vallée de Mai has given to the jewel in the Seychelles crown, the Aldabra atoll. Without the Vallée de Mai, the operation of Aldabra would not be possible and this island refuge would not have received the protection that it so deserves over the past decades.
The Vallée de Mai is an internationally recognised symbol of Seychelles’ environmental commitment. I am proud to be patron of SIF and I commend and congratulate the SIF family, on Praslin, Mahé and Aldabra and thank the many, many people who, over the last thirty years have contributed to the Vallée de Mai’s success. I call upon us all to work together to ensure that the Vallée de Mai, remains one of the most celebrated sites of outstanding importance in the World.