Arriving on Cousin Island was like stepping through a portal to the past, to a time when the world was all wildlife and vegetation. All I could see was a beautiful postcard beach, a thick forest, and more birds than I have ever seen in my entire life. From the moment my toes squished deep into the white powder sand, I was hooked. I participated in the program in the month of July, which is when this small island is home to over 300,000 birds. Cousin Island also has the largest population of skinks, and the most important nesting site for Hawksbill Sea Turtles, so no matter what time of the year, you will see animals everywhere.
I have learned more than I imagined I would in one month. During my time on Cousin, I monitored the breeding success of Lesser and Brown Noddies, took invertebrate samples, monitored the Magpie-Robin population, performed beach profiling, took a census of seabirds, was shown how to properly hold and ring birds and take blood samples, and guided visitors on a eco-tour through the forest. It is a lot of work, but the more work, more experience. Another great career opportunity this program provides is creating connections with conservationists, marine biologists and environmentalists. Meeting the Chief Executive was a really fantastic opportunity as not many CEO’s take the time out of their busy schedules to meet with volunteers. It is great to have the chance to get career advice from someone high up in this field. He definitely gave me useful guidance on the direction to proceed in after I leave Cousin.
While conservationists may not live a very luxurious life and spend most of their time doing difficult, and often stressful, work, it is one of the most rewarding careers. This is how you will feel while working on Cousin Island. My favorite part about working on Cousin is how friendly the animals are. The wildlife on this island has been protected for many years, and it is clear to see they know they have little to fear from humans. Every time I was in the forest doing field work, I would have at least one Seychelles Skink crawl on my legs or shoulders. All you have to do is whistle in the forest, and Magpie Robins will fly closer; some will even come as close as less than a meter away from you. Many of the giant tortoises enjoy being scratched on their neck. Every day, there are even a few Seychelles Fodies that will fly in and around the house. While not all the birds are comfortable being around people, most won’t even fly away when you are directly next to their nest. Even though these are all still wild animals, you will have the opportunity to have close contact with many of them.
The Conservation Boot Camp and living on Cousin Island for one month was an amazing and unique experience. I am very sad to have to leave. Not only was the work fun and interesting, but I created numerous happy memories and spent time with some awesome people. I hope one day I might be able to come back to Cousin Island in the future, but during the sea turtle nesting season.