In the guest handbook a note reads: “In the restaurants it is openly encouraged that you share your breakfast and content of your breadbasket with the animals,” and, true enough, in your villa, as soon as the doorbell rings, the birds start assembling on the banisters and outside dining table, expecting to share your room-service order.
Having to fend off magpie robins, gorgeous red cardinals and cheeky skinks (a small lizard) while trying to eat my breakfast added an interesting note to “getting close to nature.”
Personally, I like geckos and lizards, which is lucky, as those little mosquito-eating machines reside in every corner of the villas, inside and out, but I somehow doubted that they would necessarily be favored by the spoiled celebrities who frequented this secluded resort. I had visions of well-groomed and well-heeled ladies scrambling to get away from the plentiful wildlife.
Steve Hill, resident ecologist, had to admit that on a couple of occasions the helicopter had to be called in to evacuate a lady unable to cope with her small co-habitants, but, on the whole, he believed that the resort’s attitude toward conservation on Frégate actually convinced visitors that the approach was the right one.
“We actively promote that we are a nature reserve, and are against all sorts of pest control on the island, unless it is natural. Obviously the lizards and geckos are the natural pest control, and keep mosquitoes and flies at bay,” he said.
“We have environmentally aware celebrities choosing to come to Frégate because here they can see nature as it should be.” Rumors have it that the celebrities who visit include Pierce Brosnan and Paul McCartney, although the discrete staff keep mum about their guests.
Beate Sachse, the second ecologist on the island, is in charge of the tortoises on Frégate, and not just the tortoises, but everything else with two, four, six or eight legs, except humans, who are extremely well taken care off by the other staff.
Living next to the baby-tortoise enclosure, Beate not only lives and breathe tortoises, but she is also particularly keen on the magpie robin, a blackbird-sized magpie that counts among the rarest birds in the world. The bird has been the subject of an intensive recovery program since 1990.
In the 1960s, the species had dwindled to only 10 to 50 individuals, all found on Frégate Island. Today around 150 of them exist. To the visitor the birds seem plentiful, but not as abundant as the absolutely beautiful fairy tern, which is snow white with large, dark eyes, and usually ‘terns’ up in twos, as the birds mate for life, and are often found sitting on low branches chattering with each other.
The most amazing thing about the wildlife on Frégate is that none have natural predators, and they are not afraid of humans coming close. Tortoises can fetch high prices on the black market.
To reduce temptation for local staff, they are awarded a sum of money for each baby tortoise they find in the forest and deliver to Beate’s sanctuary. Talking about baby tortoises is, of course, a very relative thing, as these animals live to around 200 years of age, and it is difficult to determine the gender of the tortoise until they have matured.
Another very special inhabitant of the island is the Frégate beetle, which is found nowhere else in the world, and was until recently classified as a spider because of its relatively long legs, although it only has six of them, rather than the eight legs of a spider.
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