As I turned the pages of the book, gasps of amazement came from my audience; for each new page they saw, they squealed in delight at the photographs. The audience was a group of seven- and eight-year-olds from a local primary school and the book that made them so happy was Lost World: The Marine Realm of the Seychelles by Thomas P. Peschak.
Stunning images of ocean and coastal habitats in the Seychelles and the animals found there fill the book, with informative text alongside them. Words and pictures focus mainly on the Outer Island of Aldabra, a pristine atoll that, at 1,150 kilometres west of the Inner Islands, is far out of reach for most Seychellois. It is brilliant to see how Lost World brings the beauty of the Seychelles’ marine life right into the students’ classroom, making these distant islands and the underwater world around them far more accessible. For many of our future marine ambassadors, the book provides their first glimpse of the animals and habitats they will come to love and strive to protect.
Earlier this year we donated 25 copies of the book to all the public primary and secondary schools across the Seychelles. In February, SOSF CEO Michael Scholl and I formally presented the donation to the education minister, Macsuzy Mondon. Mrs Mondon expressed gratitude for the gift and for the commitment of the SOSF and Island School Seychelles to bringing quality marine awareness to the young people of her country.
The beauty of the granitic Inner Islands is on the doorstep for every Seychellois. Yet, even though the ocean covers 99% of the nation’s territory, people know far more about the terrestrial environment. Some years ago I visited the Biodiversity Centre on Mahé with a group of school environment leaders. I was amazed at their knowledge of every tree and plant we came across. However, talking to the same teachers revealed that their knowledge of the marine environment is not at the same depth. At the SOSF Island School Seychelles we are committed to raising awareness of sea and coastal life throughout the community. To do so we work a great deal with local primary and secondary students. However, we recognise that to reach more students, we also need to raise awareness among the teachers.
The SOSF Island School Seychelles (SOSF–ISS) focuses solely on marine environmental education and awareness and recognises the importance of making a real investment in environmental education. We believe in the words of Senegalese conservationist Baba Dioum: ‘In the end we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand and we will understand only what we are taught.’ Since we began in 2014, we have reached thousands of students across all ages throughout the Seychelles.