Seychelles renaissance man and environmental pioneer passes away


Kantilal Jivan, or Kanti as he is better known, father of Nature Seychelles CEO Dr. Nirmal Jivan Shah, passed away suddenly at Victoria Hospital, Mahe, Seychelles on Thursday, October 21 at 1315 hours. He was active until the end, successfully running his business, entertaining and meeting people including students, cooking his own vegetarian fare every day, and on Tuesday, October 19 enthusiastically showing clients new goods he had received.

Kanti needs no introduction either locally or internationally. He has promoted the Seychelles all around the world. He was the first Seychellois to have received the Seychelles National Tourism Trophy. He was the leader of the Seychelles First Tourism Delegation to Europe. He served as the Chair of the Seychelles Small Hotels and Guesthouse Association for many years. He attended the Salon Mondale de Tourism for several years running. He has been featured in more than two hundred magazine and newspaper articles, TV interviews and films. He starred with Omar Shariff in the film “Return to Eden” and was included by Ian Fleming as a character in a story in the James Bond novel “For Your Eyes Only.” He wrote many articles about the Seychelles and was a prolific speaker at many national and international meetings and fora including at the Indian Ocean Symposium, the Babha Atomic Research Centre, the Lindblad Explorer, SS Universe Floating University, Seychelles Bicentennial Celebrations, and Central Bank Annual Symposium.

He is a pioneer in the creation of national parks and protection of species in Seychelles. He is a winner of numerous awards notably the United Nations Environmental Program Global 500 Award for environmental achievement, for his work in setting up national and marine parks in Seychelles, in protecting turtles and seabirds, and in banning spear guns. Other awards include the Silver Medal of the Royal Academy of Sciences and Letters of Norway and the Rajiv Gandhi Lifetime Achievement Award. Several new species of Seychelles flora and fauna were named after him. He was part of the campaign to prevent a military base form being built on Aldabra and in the set up of the Indian Ocean Alliance, which led to the Indian Ocean to become a whale sanctuary. He persuaded the family who owned Cousin Island to sell it to Birdlife International to save the Seychelles Warbler. He organized scientific expeditions to Seychelles earning the title of Scientific Collaborator of the Free University of Belgium and was the Seychelles Representative for the International Council for Bird Preservation (ICBP) for many years. His personal campaign to members of Parliament in the UK saved the Port Launay wetland from being developed into a golf course. He was the chairperson of the National Regional Seas Committee, a regional process which led to the creation of the Nairobi Convention.

He has served as founding member, trustee, or chairperson on more than 200 committees and organizations such as the Seychelles Islands Foundation, Seychelles Tourism Board, Seychelles Town and Country Planning Commission, Seychelles Conservation and National Parks Committee, Seychelles National Environment Commission, Seychelles National Research and Development Council, the local boards of Cousin and Aride islands and the Seychelles Environment Trust Fund. He served as the vice chair of the Victoria District Council.

His knowledge of the history of the Seychelles was second to none and he has not only contributed to the understanding of Seychelles history but has become part of it. He has an extensive library and archives on Seychelles. He was a very knowledgeable antiquarian and collected many pieces to do with Seychelles history. He was also a naturalist, palm reader, vegetarian cook, and healer, and people come from all over the world to meet him. He won several prizes at the first national Horticultural Show for growing peanuts and potatoes successfully.

His photographs were made into the first definitive set of postage stamps for Seychelles. He produced the first color calendar of Seychelles and color Christmas cards for Government House. He produced the official gift of the Government of Seychelles to the Queen of England – a wooden casket of Seychelles shells – on her visit to Seychelles. He has been involved in the designs of coins, stamps, and paper money of Seychelles.

His career as a successful businessman included being a partner in Jivan Jetha and Company founded by his father, one of the top three firms in Seychelles at the time and involved in export of copra and cinnamon; sale of products and commodities ranging from foodstuffs to textiles, vehicles to fuel; services such as banking, insurance, and ship chandeling; industry and production such as coconut oil, ice cream, soft drinks, and soap.

Most of all, as a Seychellois of Indian origin, he went beyond his career as a successful businessman and influenced many people both in Seychelles and overseas. His web of friendship is spread all over the world including thousands of people who remember him with great love and admiration. He truly deserves the title “Renaissance Man” given to him by his friends and fans.

Mr. Khanti Shah passed away on Thursday, October 21 quite suddenly. He was cremated in a private ceremony on Friday, October 22, and his ashes were spread in his beloved Indian Ocean on Sunday, October 24. Seychelles lost a real son of Seychelles, and the Seychelles Tourism Board and the Tourism Industry’s Association, the SHTA, have expressed the tourism industry’s saddness at this great loss. “Khanti was a mentor for our industry, always ready to assist with advice and guidance. He will be sorely missed,” Alain St.Ange, the CEO of the Seychelles Tourism Board and eTurboNews ambassador said.