Vital Ocean Voices is a series of stories from people living in coastal communities around the Indian Ocean, providing first-hand accounts of the impacts of destructive fishing, pollution and climate breakdown.
Kylian, seven years old, has always refused to cut his lovely long hair. Visiting Aigrettes Island (Mauritius) he is fascinated by the wildlife. Hearing that oil was spilling from the sinking Wakashio, he cuts off his hair to protect the lagoon. His story will inspire others to protect the ocean too.
I live on a paradise island in the Indian Ocean, named Mauritius. I’m seven years old and like most children of my age, I spend my time playing with toys and watching TV. But what I really like to do is drawing, writing, doing slam, playing piano and telling stories. Moreover, with my mum’s help, I enjoy sharing my creations with others through my YouTube channel, Kylian’s Wonderland. I already have over 150 subscribers!
One thing I really like about myself is my curly long hair and I told my mother I would never cut it. But this blog is about why I cut my hair for the oceans.
Another thing that is very important to me is nature. To be honest, like Obelix, I fell in the magic potion pot when I was born: my two grandfathers were fishermen and used to take me fishing and snorkeling, discovering the wonders of the ocean. Not to forget my Auntie, who is a biologist working hard to protect nature. She would take me to work where I would help collect seedlings for an island restoration project. My mum and grandma are both eco teachers, who always use upcycling to create teaching aids and sensitize their pupils through wonderful stories I enjoy listening to. I wish other kids could also be in touch with nature to learn how to take care of other living beings.
That’s why I was thrilled to go on my first expedition to Ile Aux Aigrettes, a nature reserve where amazing scientific research takes place, located on the southeast coast of Mauritius. They take care of turtles, other animals and plants. My auntie explained the island, the ocean, and the people of this region are all connected. Ile Aux Aigrettes is home to wildlife unique to Mauritius and was a great attraction to tourists. She told me that during the rainy season, seabird poo is transferred into the ocean providing nutrients for corals to grow and food for fishes. With an abundance of fish, the fishermen can source food for their family or guest houses quite easily. This is how I become aware of how protecting nature and the surrounding marine habitat can help so many families in my region to earn a living.
But that beautiful place would never be the same after a big Japanese ship ran aground on the coral reef close to Ile Aux Aigrettes. The ship leaked fuel oil for weeks as it slowly broke apart, splitting into two by mid-August. About 1,000 tonnes of oil spilled into the ocean causing a disastrous impact on the marine life in the surrounding area and beyond. It was really sad to see fish and dolphins washed ashore no longer alive. Marine life was dying as a consequence of human mistakes. As no immediate response was taken by authorities, the population decided to take matters into their own hands – people volunteered to remove the oil from the lagoon, beaches and mangrove forests. Scientists monitored the health of the reef, counting affected species and collecting samples from dead organisms. I wanted to help too but because I am still young my parents did not want me to be exposed to the chemical pollutants. Fortunately, I could help without jumping into the black sea.
In fact, many people were cutting their hair to make barriers, absorbing and stopping the spread of oil. I knew it was time to say goodbye to my curls for the sake of my motherland. I created a video on my YouTube channel to motivate others to do the same. Besides, I asked my parents to take me to the protest in Port Louis, the Capital of Mauritius, on 31 August 2020, to show my concern with the biggest disaster I’ve ever witnessed. I was amazed to see how many Mauritians were there united and was proud to play my role. But I felt that I should and could do more, so I wrote a story about my experience with the ship disaster. I hope that by the means of my drawings and stories, other children (and adults!) can understand that no one is too small to make a difference and protect the oceans.
What if we treated our oceans like they matter?
Kylian and Sandrine are a storyteller and an educator, respectively; they are from Mauritius.
Guest authors work with Greenpeace International to share their personal experiences and perspectives and are responsible for their own content.