The disease is caused by a kind of bark beetle carrying spores of a fungus and infecting the Takamaka tree. (Seychelles News Agency)
The Seychelles Parks and Garden Authority (SPGA) has begun to tackle the Takamaka tree wilt disease resurgence on the islands of Curieuse and La Digue, said an environment official.
The disease is caused by a kind of bark beetle carrying spores of a fungus and infecting the Takamaka tree when it bores into the bark and, as a result, the leaves fall off and the plant eventually dies, if not treated.
An assessment was conducted on Curieuse in March 2023 to ascertain the gravity of the infection.
“We estimated that 25-30 Takamaka trees have been infected on the coastal plateau from Baie Laraie – near the Ranger’s Headquarters – to Anse Josee near the Doctor’s House,” James Mougal, the forestry and national parks general manager told SNA.
He said that “the infestation rate is between 5 to 100 percent. One hundred percent means that the tree is dead. According to our information, it cost around SCR 2,000 [$150] to treat one infected Takamaka tree. This includes the cost of the fungicide, labour and transportation costs. Initially, we were using ‘Storite’ and ‘Tilt’ fungicides to treat the Takamaka disease.”
Curieuse is a small granitic island close to the second-most populated island of Praslin. The island is a national park managed by Seychelles National Parks Authority and apart from Praslin, it is the second place where the unique endemic coco de mer palm grows in its natural state. The island is also home to hundreds of endemic giant Aldabra tortoises, which were introduced from the Aldabra Atoll between 1978 and 1982.
|If not treated the tree will eventually die. (Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY|
A Seychelles endemic bird, the Paradise Flycatcher, which is found in the La Digue island nature reserve, was successfully relocated to Curieuse.
“This was so that should anything happen to the population of La Digue, there would be others in another safer location,” said Mougal.
He said that with the resurgence of the Takamaka tree wilt, the species on both islands will be affected “as these are the trees they prefer to build their nests in.”
Mougal added that the Takamaka trees are also where the birds find the insects they need to feed on.
A senior forestry officer, Terrence Athanase, told SNA that although there are signs that members of the public may notice the Takamaka tree wilt disease “it is only our experts who have worked with the disease who will be able to diagnose the plant with utmost certainty.”
He added that “this is because, with the South East trade winds, the trees are losing their leaves and this might be mistaken for the Takamaka tree wilt.”
Athanase also explained that the officers are “using the equipment and fungicide we have to deal with the issue and are monitoring the trees’ recovery process.”
However, to be sure that the methods are effective, the forestry officers will have to revisit the affected trees every three months for definite signs of improvement.
Meanwhile, as the division had dealt with the issue of the tree wilt before, Mougal said that it will be doubling down on “enforcing the existing laws that prohibit the transportation of the tree between islands.”