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Seychelles' Christmas life: Casuarina losing artificial vs live tree battle

Victoria, Seychelles | December 18, 2016, Sunday @ 10:56 in National » GENERAL | By: Salifa Magnan and Betymie Bonnelame | Views: 4298
Seychelles' Christmas life: Casuarina losing artificial vs live tree battle

A natural casuarina tree with Christmas decorations at the bus station in the Seychelles capital, Victoria. (Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency)

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(Seychelles News Agency) - In the Christmas-time choice between putting a live tree and an artificial tree in the corner of the family room, islanders are opting away from the Seychelles' islands natural casuarina trees, an officer of the Seychelles National Parks Authority (SNPA) says.

Over the past five years, the sale of casuarina tree has gone down, and not because of the cost, Terence Belle, an Assistant Forestry Officer of SNPA, told SNA.

“I don't think that this is related to the prices that we have set but rather due to people buying more artificial trees. Natural trees are losing their value and popularity today,” said Belle.

In the past, locals traditionally used branches of the casuarina tree, one of the most abundant and evergreen conifers found in the islands, as Christmas trees. The cones were often wrapped in aluminium foil as hanging decorations.

SNA spoke to a resident, Emile Vidot, as to why he prefers artificial trees. 

“It is faster to assemble the artificial trees and easier to maintain. In yesteryears, there weren't any artificial trees available, and so we used the local, natural tree,” said Vidot. 

Artificial Christmas trees are not only available in many shops in Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, but also come with many options – with fibre optic lights, fully decorated or plain so families can decorate as they wish.

There are, however, some locals who still prefer their traditional casuarina tree.

“It is a tradition for me. We have always had a natural tree at home on Christmas day. The tree itself and the smell put us in the mood for Christmas,” said Bessy Leon.

Innocente Magnan says, “When tourists come to Seychelles, they shouldn't see the same things that they see at home. So for us, it is a way of preserving our culture and I think it is much more appreciated.”

SNPA makes provision for the locals and residents who still observe and appreciate casuarina trees. Orders can be placed through a call to the authority on (248) 4225115. After payment is made clients can collect their trees at the SNPA head office at STC’s Fruit and Vegetable Wholesale, Laurier Avenue.

Depending on the size, casuarina tree sells at between $6 and $19 and sales are done from Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., except for December 23 when sales will end at noon.

SNPA says that without a necessary permit, it is illegal to cut down casuarina trees. If caught by relevant authorities, culprits can be fined up to three times the price of the tree.

“[The fine] depends on the circumstance under which we catch the person. We usually discuss with our senior officers at the SNPA before issuing the fine and even a police officer can fine,” said Belle.

The SNPA officer added that it is difficult at times to determine if trees are being cut illegally.

“The trees grow in many areas and with lots of construction work being undertaken on sites such as Perseverance. It is difficult to tell if the trees are being chopped down for construction or for taking home,” said Belle.

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Tags: casuarina trees, artificial tree, Christmas, Seychelles National Parks Authority

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