Date and Histoy of Establishment
- 18 April 1966: Officially declared a nature reserve, under the Wild Birds Protection Regulation S.I. No. 27 of 1696.
- Further protection was afforded under the National Parks and Nature Conservancy Act S.I. No. 57 of 1979, Praslin National Park Order of 1979.
- 1983: Inscribed on the World Heritage List.
19.5 hectares (ha), within Praslin National Park (324 ha).
Ranges from about 160 meters (m) to approximately 200 m.
Comprises a valley in the central hills of the island. Two streams, Nouvelle De'Couverte River and Riviere Fond B'Offay originate in the valley, joining the sea in the west and east. The other principal river in the park, Fond B'Offay, flows westward into Baie Sainte Anne. This area remained untouched until the 1930s and still retains some palm forest in a near natural state.
Conditions are humid tropical and temperature vary little throughout the year. There is a drier season during the south-east monsoon (April to September) and a wetter season during north-east monsoon (October to March). Annual rainfall on Praslin is about 2,200 millimeters (mm). The island lies outside the cyclone belt and is relatively free from strong winds and thunderstorms.
The main vegetation type within the valley comprises an intermediate palm forest characterized by the endemic palm coco-de-mer Lodoicea maldivica (V) (bearer of the largest seed in the plant kingdom). The high canopy reaches up to 30-40 m. All six endemic palm species to the Seychelles occur in the valley, and all belong to a monospecific genera; Deckenianobilis (V), Phoenicophorium borsigiana (V), coco-de-mer, Verschaffeltia splendida (V), Roscheria melanochaetes and Nephrosperma van-houtteana. Palm forest is intermixed with broadleaved endemic species such as Northea hornei, Pandanus hornei, Drypetes riseleyi and Dillenia ferruginea. Endemic sedge Thorachostachyum floribundum grows in more open and rocky places, whilst a dense growth of sedge Scleria sumatrensis occurs on open, marshy patches on the forest floor. Drier hills on the edge of the valley have suffered soil erosion as a result of earlier deforestation and forest fires. Consequently, the degrade soil now supports exotic species such as 'coco plum' Chrysobalanus icaco, lemon grass Cymbopogon citratus and calice du pape Tabebuia pallida, along with the endemic Dillenia ferruginea (R), Paragenipa lancifolia, Memecyclon elaeagni, Syzygium wrightii, Pandanus multispicatus and Deckenia nobilis, as well as Intsia bijuga and Canthium bibracteatum.
The most noteworthy bird is the endemic subspecies of black parrot Coracopsis nigra barklyi (E), restricted to Praslin Island and totally dependent on the Vallée de Mai and the surrounding palm forest. A census in 1994 recorded 108 birds. Other birds include: the endemic Seychelles bulbul Hypsipetes crassirostris, blue pigeon Alectroenas pulcherrima, Seychelles sunbird Nectarinia dussamieri, Seychelles kestrel Falco araea and an endemic cave-nesting swiftlet Collocalia francica elaphra. Exotic birds include Indian mynah Acridotheres tristis and barn owl Tyto alba affinis. The only two indigenous mammal species are the endemic Seychelles flying fox Pteropus seychellensis (which roosts in the reserve), and sheathtailed bat Coleura seychellensis (seen regularly). The insectivorous tenrec Tenrec ecaudatus, introduced to the Seychelles from Madagascar, also occurs. Reptiles include the endemic chameleon Chamaeleo tigris, Seychelles house snake Boaedon geometricus, Seychelles wolf snake Lycognathophis seychellensis, the introduced blind snake Ramphotyphlops braminus, green geckos Phelsuma sundbergi and P. astriata, bronze gecko Ailuronyx sechellensis, and skinks Mabuya sechellensis, Scelotes gardineri, and S. braueri. One endemic frog, Tachycnemius seychellensis, and the introduced mascarene frog Rana mascareniensis are known from the area. Six species of endemic caecilians are known to occur in the deep beds of moist humus, but are only rarely seen. The stream contains the endemic freshwater crab Dekenia allaudi, large freshwater prawn Macrobacium lar, shrimp Caridina sp. and the only species of freshwater fish endemic to the Seychelles, gourgeon Pachypanchax playfairi. The two endemic snails known to occur are brown snail Stylodonta studeriana and blackfish snail Pachnodus arnatus.
Local Human Population
There are no inhabitants in Vallée de Mai, other than a forestry settlement in Praslin National Park where forest and park rangers are accommodated.
Visitors and Visitor Facilities
Access to the valley is on foot along marked trails from the road, which divides the national park in two, where it passes the mouth of the valley. Guided tours are available. There is an information center and a small shop by the entrance.
Scientific Research and Facilities
Some work has been carried out by individuals on the black parrot and palm geckos. The palm forests are of great botanical interest. A University Expedition to the island studied forest regeneration, Seychelles fruit bat, tenrecs and black parrot. Savage and Ashton have studied the population structure of the coco-de-mer palm (1983) and the impact of tourism (1991).
Valleé de Mai is one of the few remaining areas where coco-de-mer forest occurs and is the only place where all six endemic palm species to the Seychelles are found together. The valley also includes a rich and diverse endemic flora and fauna with several threatened species.
The reserve itself is a strictly protected zone within Praslin National Park. It is completely surrounded by the national park, a multiple use management area mainly devoted to the conservation of endemic forest, notably the coco-de-mer forest. Access within the reserve is restricted to a carefully designed system of paths. Policies were decided by the Seychelles National Environment Commission and a draft management plan, which includes the reserve, has been prepared for the Praslin National Park. Since 1 January 1989 the management of Vallée de Mai has been entrusted to the Seychelles Islands Foundation. Collection of coco-de-mer nuts is controlled by law ; their commercialization is a government monopoly. For several years, exotic species have been gradually removed and much of the valley has been replanted with endemic plants. A firebreak, which is regularly maintained, has been established around the reserve.
There are considerable difficulties in effectively patrolling the area, and poaching of coco-de-mer nuts is a serious problem that might affect its future regeneration. There is also a considerable hazard of fire, although all smoking or use of fire is prohibited within the reserve. Rats and feral cats have been introduced and have established themselves in the area, threatening endemic birds. Specially prepared rat-proof nesting boxes have been produced for the black parrots .
Staff of the Forestry and Conservation Sections (Department of Environment) and of the Seychelles Islands Foundation.
Management is mainly funded by the admission charges.
IUCN Management Category
- IV (Habitat/Species Management Area)
- Natural World Heritage Site - Criteria i, ii, iii, iv
- Ascroft, D.R. et al. (1976). Aberdeen University Expedition to Praslin Island, Seychelles, Summer 1976. Preliminary Report.
- Lionnet, G. (1956). The Vallée de Mai and the coc-de-mer Palm. Principles 19: 134-138.
- Lionnet, G. (1974). The romance of a palm: coco-de-mer. Third Edition. Victoria.
- Procter, J. (1975). The Vallée de Mai information leaflet.
- Savage, A.J.P. and Ashton, P.S. (1983). The population structure of the double coconut and some other Seychelles palms. Biotropica 15(1): 15-25.
- Savage, A.J.P. and Ashton, P.S. (1991). Tourism is affecting the stand structure of the coco-de-mer. Principes 35(1): 47-48.
- Willis, D. (1984). The wild sanctuaries of the Seychelles. Swara 7(4): 24-27.
- Wilson, J.R. (1980). The Praslin National Park, A Draft Management Plan.
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