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Silhouette Island

Date of Submission: 01/02/2013
Criteria: (v)(x)
Category: Mixed
Submitted by:
Ministry of Tourism and Culture
State, Province or Region:
Silhouette, Seychelles
Coordinates: Y: 9504278 X: 305858 / S4.493772 E55.237112
Ref.: 5799

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Silhouette was the first island of the group to be seen when the islands were discovered in 1609 but was not settled until the early 19th century.

From 1860 attempts were made to develop parts of the island for agriculture or forestry. A wide range of plants was introduced for crops of timber, fruit, spices and oils. These are all abandoned now but the plants can still be found growing in the most unlikely places. In the 1940s a small grove of Coco-de-Mer trees (Lodoicea maldivica) was planted high in the mountains. This thriving population of this rare palm provided an occupation for part of the 1000 strong labour force on the island, some of whom had to climb up to the trees to water them daily. The dramatic legacy of the island's history; a cast-iron neo-classical mausoleum, is the most remarkable piece of eccentricity in all Seychelles.

Silhouette is the third largest island in Seychelles archipelago and also rated as one of the most physically attractive island in the granites group. Five Kilometres long and wide, Silhouette which is about one hour boat ride from Mahe, boasts the 780 meter high Mount Dauban and its surrounding thick virgin forests, which is a haven for ecologists and environmentalists. Blessed by this luxuriant evergreen vegetation, the island is surrounded with a rich marine life kingdom whose reefs contains a multitude of all types of fish and shells, whilst green turtles breed on some of its un spoilt beaches. Silhouette which got its name from that of an 18th century French Minister is also known to have been the home to one of the most notorious pirates, Jean Francois Hodoul and the legend has it that his fortune still lies buried there. Surrounded by a national marine park extending a mile from its coastline, Silhouette lies near one of the fishing banks found between the island and one of the most beautiful beach the Beau Vallon beach.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Although Silhouette is the third largest island in Seychelles and Mont Dauban the second highest mountain (740m), the island's steep slopes have prevented significant development and restricted the population to 147 people at the present time. As a result, human impact has been less significant than on other islands and much of the original nature of the Seychelles islands is preserved on Silhouette.

The height of the mountains and the limited amount of development means that the island has an exceptional range of unique animals and plants. It is regarded by conservationists as one of the most important biodiversity hotspots in the Indian Ocean. Silhouette is recognized as a priority site for conservation by the Alliance for Zero Extinction. Silhouette Island is home to two National Monuments, the Plantation house and the Dauban Mausoleum. The plantation house reflects artistic and architectural movements originating from the Creole and European culture. It was built around 1861 as the family home for Mr. Henry Dauban, owner of the island at that time. The house has just gone through renovation and being managed by La Briz Silhouette which is a five star Hotel.

Criteria (V): Silhouette Island bears a unique tradition of the Creole Seychellois culture. Most of the Creole tradition is still being followed on Silhouette Island, such as our traditional dance and our Creole food. It is also an outstanding example of our traditional architecture still being preserved such as the Plantation House, which is a National Monument. The traditional methods of agriculture have survive new technology and been unchanged for several years.

Criteria (X): Silhouette Island contains the most significant natural habitat for numerous species. The majority of plant and animal species are small and inconspicuous. The most obvious animals are the large fruit bats (Pteropus seychellensis), abundant bird life, day geckos (Phelsuma spp.) and skinks (Mabuyasechellensis, Pamelascincus gardineri and Janetascincus braueri).There are many inconspicuous or secretive animals, most dramatic of which is the Seychelles chameleon (Calumma (formerly Chemaeleon) Tigris). Both hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) and green turtles (Chelonia mydas) nest on the island. The island is of great importance as it supports the last known major roosts of the Seychelles sheath-tailed bat (Coleura seychellensis).

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The island is being well managed and conserved by the island development company (IDC). Silhouette Island is well known for its outstanding landscape in which traditional methods of agriculture have survived unchanged for several years. The Island also preserves a rich vernacular tradition in its architecture, its crafts, and its music. The island has sites of general interest such as the ancient graves of the Arab traders at Anse Lascar, the Dauban mausoleum at La Passe , the original plantation house built some 150 years ago still stands and is one of the finest examples of traditional Seychellois architecture. Silhouette Island is surrounded by the finest marine life, where the coral reefs provide some of the most beautiful scenery and the most varied and colorful fauna in the World. In 1987 the waters around Silhouette were declared a Marine National Park and the rest of the island was protected as the Silhouette National Park in 2010.In 1994 the IDC invited The Nature Protection Trust of Seychelles (NPTS) to assist with conservation management of the island. In 1997 the NPTS established its Silhouette Conservation Project on the island. This project aims to protect the forest environments of Silhouette and to restore them to a near-natural state. A large part of the conservation work involves research into the diversity and ecology of the forest animals and plants. Another important aspect is the control of invasive species.

Comparison with other similar properties

The Silhouette island, in view of its rich endemism and magnificent natural beauty, can easily be compared amongst other World Heritage Sites such as the:

The uKhahlamba - Drakensberg Park has exceptional natural beauty in its soaring basaltic buttresses, incisive dramatic cutbacks, and golden sandstone ramparts. Rolling high altitude grasslands, the pristine steep- sided river valleys and rocky gorges also contribute to the beauty of the site. The site's diversity of habitats protects a high level of endemic and globally threatened species, especially birds and plants. This spectacular natural site also contains many caves and rock-shelters with the largest and most concentrated group of paintings in Africa, south of the Sahara, made by the San people over a period of 4,000 years.

It can also be compared to: Siemens Mountains National Park (SMNP) located in the north Gondor Zone of northern Ethiopia which is already a World Natural Heritage Site. It has precipitous escarpments giving spectacular view of peaks and Canyons. Like Silhouette Island, the Siemens Mountains National Park is home to over 20 species endemic to Ethiopia, 5 of which are endemic to the Park. The large mammal Walia Ibex capra ibex walie, which is the national symbol is endemic to Ethiopia and is only found in the Simen Mountains, is threatened with extinction. Both SMPN and Silhouette are habitats of organisms that are national symbols of those two countries.