To the average outsider who knows little about Seychelles, birds’ eggs may conjure up only images of cute little chicks emerging from its shattered shellto commence life as one of the many winged creatures we all too often take for granted as we go about our daily business.
To the Seychellois though, the two words bring water to mouths as the shrimpy taste complete of the salmon-coloured omelette comes to mind, for in our folklore birds’ eggs have become an integral part of the national DNA.
In fact, the penchant for the seasonal delicacy seems to have begun almost as soon as modern man set up camp for the first time on the numerous islands that dot the southwestern Indian Ocean.
How did birds’ eggs come to be such a culinary delight in a country spoilt for choice of fish species, we may never fully understand. Perhaps it was a marketing thing in the age before marketing developed into a science of its own. It may have been one way for island managers and owners to develop ‘novel’ products for sale to add to the boring and monotonous salt fish and coconuts. Or was it simply another important source of protein for islanders deprived of imported foods as the Second World War raged as close as Singapore in our own ocean.
Whatever it was, the eggs became a delicacy that remained at the reach of every purse as long as the buyer had the nerve and the stamina to face the rugged crowds that would form at the Long Pier as island schooners disembarked their sometimes wreaking loads that had already faced several days of a rough sea journey from those outlying islands.
That was before modernity brought regular container shipping and cargo-carrying aircraft to our country. In the light of our new life in the New Seychelles the question we really need to ask ourselves is whether we really need to eat those tiny fragile eggs that if left alone would each give a little bird to a world where wildlife is facing the pressures of man’s invasive spirit.
Wind power and human energy was used to exploit the eggs in the past. Today helicopters go out using expensive fuel to ferry cartons of eggs across to boats lying at anchor around the islands. The escalating costs of exploiting the birds’ eggs are translating into extremely high inflation in the price making it more of a rich man’s delicacy and breaking completely with the tradition of what it represents.
With some half a million birds eggs collected this year, each one of our 85,000 population could eat six eggs in a fair and equitable world. But honestly, bearing in mind that the birds must go further out to sea to feed and, worse still, they often end up feeding their chicks a death sentence with the plastic trash they pick up from the oceans as a result of our careless habits, would it not be make better environmental sense to leave those 500,000 birds’ eggs out there to hatch into little chicks and grow into adult birds that will ensure that our islands remain the champions of the environment of which we are so proud?
Today in Seychelles Editorial
By Nicole Tirant