The Man Who Bought An Island and Raised a Tortoise Army

Photo by Glisglis. Some rights reserved.

Moyenne is a .034 square mile island in the Seychelles archipelago, off the north coast of Mahé, the chain’s largest island, in the Indian Ocean. Abandoned by native inhabitants in the early 1900’s, the island was left to its own devices until 1962, when a then-36-year-old Yorkshire resident by the name of Brendon Grimshaw purchased the land for £8,000 from the Seychelles government. Grimshaw has been living on the island on his own ever since, and has made it his personal passion project to reintroduce nearly lost flora and fauna into his tiny kingdom in an effort to “give himself something to do,” something he knows is worthwhile.

What kind of fauna, you ask? Why, the indigenous giant land tortoise! Through his exhaustive efforts, Grimshaw now resides amongst 120 tortoises, who are free to roam about the island, free from any human threat. (A sign outside Grimshaw’s house reads “Please respect the tortoises. They are probably older than you!”) In addition, Grimshaw has built 4.8 kilometers of nature trails and planted 16,000 trees across the island’s small surface area (Grimshaw claims that when he first arrived on Moyenne, there were only 4 trees).

While many global capitalists would purchase and rebuild an island in the expectation that it could be sold back at a much higher price to hotel chains and the like, Grimshaw has done quite the opposite. With the help of his assistant, Rene Antoine Lafortune, he has been able to get Moyenne sanctioned as an official national park of the Seychelles (what has been crowned as the smallest national park in the world) so that visitors can come and enjoy its natural beauty. Watch the BBC’s new video report on Grimshaw and Moyenne, which includes a truly delightful interview, here.

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