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Delicacy in short supply: Seychelles much-loved sooty tern eggs only harvested on Bird island this year

Victoria, Seychelles | July 31, 2015, Friday @ 10:43 in Environment » CONSERVATION | By: Rassin Vannier, Celia Ponzo and Sharon Uranie | Views: 3195
Delicacy in short supply:  Seychelles much-loved sooty tern eggs only harvested on Bird island this year

The speckled egg that is considered a seasonal delicacy enjoyed by locals and foreigners alike. (Seychelles News Agency)

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(Seychelles News Agency) - As is the case in every country worldwide, Seychelles also has its own delicacies, among which, the sooty tern eggs that are enjoyed by locals and foreigners alike.

Considered a seasonal delicacy, the speckled eggs known locally as 'dizef zwazo' are harvested from the birds’ nests annually between June and July when the nesting season begins.

The black-backed terns with white underparts, known as 'Golet' in the native Creole language, can be found throughout tropical regions of the world’s oceans.

It is the most abundant seabird to be found in the Seychelles, with an estimated 3 million pairs, each coming to lay a single egg every year.

The largest supplier of bird eggs is the Island Development Company, IDC, a parastatal company which manages some of the outer islands of the archipelago.

The company harvests the eggs on Desnoeufs island, lying over 200 kilometres southwest of the Seychelles main island of Mahé.

But while the harvest is always met with great demand, over the years the availability of the eggs on the market has decreased as the practice which was before an annual occurrence is now done in a more sustainable manner, which has seen IDC skip the collection of eggs this year to allow the birds to reproduce.

The other supplier of the delicacy however, the owner of Bird Island Lodge, which manages Bird Island located some 100 kilometres from the main island of Mahé has been making available a small quantity of eggs since the beginning of this month.

Bird Island which is considered a wildlife reserve sees tens of thousands of sooty terns colonize the beach during the breeding season. The recommended practice is that each year during the harvest season half of the colony is harvested, with the same recommended to IDC for Desnoeufs.

The black-backed terns, known as Golet in Creole, can be found throughout tropical regions of the world’s oceans and is the most abundant seabird to be found in the Seychelles. (Gerard Larose ) Photo License: CC-BY

"We are envisaging 3 deliveries of bird eggs, however, this will depend on the birds,” said Alex Savy, the Director, of Bird Island Lodge, when contacted by SNA.

"We do wholesale and the price is confidential...the merchants are free to sell the eggs at whatever price they want," said Savy.

Generally the price of a bird egg is almost $0.40 (5 Seychelles rupees) which is more expensive than a chicken egg and in some cases people end up paying up to $0.70 (9 Seychelles rupees) for the egg.

Even at that price, the rare commodity sells like hotcakes and is always in short supply.

People in Seychelles like to eat bird's egg in different ways. Depending on individual taste the eggs can be hard-boiled and eaten with a pinch of salt, cooked as an omelet or prepared as a salad.

In spite of Bird Island making available a small quantity of eggs, it is evident that this year, the product has reached the market rather late compared to previous years.

Normally one can start enjoying birds’ eggs as the southeast monsoon season kicks in, from the beginning of June.

Ornithologist Dr. Gerard Rocamora told SNA that this is the first time he has noted the late arrival of the seabirds.

"This this may due to climate change or a change in the sea temperature, I am yet to verify this,” said Rocamora who fears that this year there might be a high mortality rate among the hatchlings as the young birds will not have time to store enough food and therefore have no strength to fly.

"When the adults will migrate, they may abandon their youngsters as they are not able to take with them a bird that is not in perfect conditions ... {although} it seems that adults sometimes carry their smaller ones on their wings," explained Dr. Rocamora.

Although the population trend of the sooty tern is not known, the migratory seabird does not make the list of endangered bird species.

In Seychelles, aside of Bird and Desnoeufs large colonies are also found on the islands of Aride, Farquhar, and Cosmoledo.

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Tags: seabird, sooty terns, ornitologist, Dr Gerard Rocamora, birds egg, Bird Island, IDC

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