Working for birds in Africa

Zwazo Sesel: The Names of Seychelles Birds and Their Meanings

Fri, 12/21/2012 - 13:19 -- abc_admin
Adrian Skerrett, Pat Matyot and Gerard Rocamora, illustrated by Judith Skerrett, 2003. Victoria, Seychelles: Island Conservation Society. 94pp. Softback, available from Adrian Skerrett, Hazeley Brook, Keele Road, Keele, Staffordshire ST5 SAL, UK.
page 165

Published by the recently formed Island Conservation Society, Zwazo Sesel presents and explains the Creole (the local French-based language) name for every bird species recorded in the Seychelles archipelago. Whereas the majority of breeding species, as well as the more familiar migrants, have well-established Creole names, developed over 200 years of human settlement on the islands, around 75% of the 259 bird species recorded from the Seychelles have no local name. The authors of this publication have rectified this by constructing an appropriate Creole nomenclature for these species. A number of approaches have been taken. Where a species has been given a Creole name from elsewhere in the Indian Ocean this has been adopted. For some species, for example Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis, the Creole name (greb likou nwanr) is an adaptation of the established French name (Grèbe à cou noir). Finally, some species have a specially constructed Creole name. Eurasian Nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus is thus Sonmey lerop—Somney from the Creole to sleep (representing the fact that this species roosts during the day) and lerop meaning from Europe.

For each species, the Creole, English, French and scientific name is given along with a short piece of text explaining the status of each species in Seychelles and an explanation of the origin of the name. Black-and-white illustrations are scattered liberally throughout.

This is a very well-researched book and although its real value will lie in encouraging a greater local interest in birds, through enabling Seychellois to put a local name to the species they see, Swazo Sesel will appeal to anyone with a interest in the avifauna of this magical group of islands.

Rob Lucking

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