SOCIAL AFFAIRS & ECOLOGY
The population is a relatively homogeneous one of mixed European and African descent, and most citizens consider themselves as Seychellois, possessors of a unique culture and society. Contrary to other Indian Ocean island nations, the Asian population is relatively small; it consists almost entirely of Indians and Chinese. However, the intermixing of the Indian and Chinese communities with the larger society is greater than was common elsewhere. Some twenty grand blanc planter families, descendants of the original French settlers, represent a separate group but under the socialist government no longer command the power and social prestige they once had. About 2,000 foreign workers and their families lived in Seychelles in the early 1990 s.
Several indexes of social status operate. The first is colour. Although almost all Seychellois are so racially mixed as to defy classification, light skin remains a status feature because authority in Seychelles has been traditionally vested in a white plantation owner or manager, or later in British officials. Seychellois are highly status conscious and are anxious to improve their social positions. Possessions, particularly land and substantial homes, are important indicators of status and prestige. Fine clothing, cars, jewellery, and watches are similarly regarded. Social tensions based on race are almost unknown, and persons of differing racial types mix freely in schools, business, and social gatherings.
Most family units take the form of de facto unions known as living an ménage. One result of this practice is that nearly three fourths of all children born in the islands are born out of wedlock. Most of these children are, however, legally acknowledged by their fathers. Although frowned upon by the church and civil authorities, those unions are generally stable and carry little stigma for either partner or for their children.
Some 90 percent of the population was Roman Catholic as of 1992. The initial white settlers in Seychelles were Roman Catholics, and the country has remained so, despite ineffective British efforts to establish Protestantism in the islands during the nineteenth century. The nation has been a bishopric since 1890, and mission schools had a virtual monopoly on education until the government took over such schools in 1944. Sunday masses are well attended, and religious holidays are celebrated throughout the nation both as opportunities for the devout to practice their faith and as social events. Practicing Catholicism, like speaking French, confers a certain status by associating its adherents with the white settlers from France.
Approximately 7 percent of Seychellois are Anglicans–most coming from families converted by missionaries in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Evangelical Protestant churches are active and growing, among them Pentecostals and Seventh Day Adventists. Some 2 percent of the population are adherents of other faiths, including Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam. Main island Mahe boost a Hindu Temple and two Mosque. No restrictions are imposed on religious worship by any of the denominations.
Although clergy and civil authorities disapprove, many Seychellois see little inconsistency between their orthodox religious observance and belief in magic, witchcraft, and sorcery.
Though the islands may have been known to Arab traders, they lay undiscovered until chartered by the Portuguese in the early 16th century.
The first recorded landing was by the British East India Company in 1608, but it was the French who first lay claim to the islands in 1756 and settled in 1770.
At the conclusion of the Napoleonic wars, Mauritius was ceded to Britain together with its dependencies including Seychelles. In 1903, Seychelles became a separate crown colony. The International Airport opened in 1971, and Seychelles obtained from Britain its independence in 1976. It has a multi-party democratic constitution, and the current Head of State is President James Michel.
Copra and cinnamon exports, which were the traditional sources of revenue, have now been largely replaced by the tourism and fishing industries. Tourism provides today around 50% of the foreign currency earnings for the country and 30% of the government’s revenue. Industrial tuna fishing and processing is the second vital sector of the Seychellois economy.
During the first years after independence, the largest investments have been made in infrastructures and social services, notably in education, health and housing. Recently an International Trade Zone was created for attracting foreign investments. Small manufacturing industries for local needs are also encouraged in order to reduce imports of goods.
Two hundred million years ago, the super continent of Pangaea united all the world’s land masses. As these slid apart, Pangaea was wrenched into two, with Laurasia to the north and Gondwanaland to the south. Gondwana split in two also and later India and Madagascar separated from Africa. At the apex where these last three land masses met, a fragment of Eden was cast adrift.
These are not just the only granite islands in the world, they are also the oldest islands of any ocean. For all but the tiniest fraction of their history, they lay forgotten and untouched. Now they may be visited and acclaimed by the world for what they are, a unique paradise.
In addition, a string of perfect islands and coral atolls lie beyond the granitic group and form part of Seychelles. These include Aldabra, a world apart, whose reptiles are still the dominant land animal and thousands of turtles come ashore to nest in safety. There is nowhere else to compare with Seychelles. Also a huge number of land tortoises leave on Aldabra.
In the space of millions of years, that Seychelles lay isolated and undiscovered they developed unique flora and fauna. Birds and plants are not found anywhere on Earth leaving here even now and flourish thanks to good governance and policies which had seen more than 40% of land were given to reserves, national parks, special protected territories, which include UNESCO Heritage Valley de Mer, Praslin and Aldabra Atoll.
Seventy five species of plants found on granite islands of Seychelles are indigenous and not found anywhere in the world. As well as forty two spices of plants found only on Aldabra.
Unique land birds existing only on the Seychelles islands include world last flightless bird of Indian Ocean Aldabra Rail, leave only on Aldabra and enigmatic Seychelles Owl who is found only on Mahe.
Reptile species today include largest in the world population of giant tortoises. Pristine coral reefs are home to huge numbers of different fishes (more than 1000 species are registered), corals and other forms of marine life. Seychelles Islands are ultimate paradise for wild nature.