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Situated in the Atlantic Ocean, 460 km off the coast of Africa, Cape Verde is an archipelago nation formed of 10 major islands and a number of smaller, uninhabited islets. With ecosystems ranging from the flat and dry to the lush and mountainous, Cape Verde is home to a variety of plant and animal species.
The archipelago is recognised as a global hotspot for marine biodiversity in particular, and supports a high diversity of emblematic and unique marine animals, including over 20 species of cetacean (whales, dolphins and porpoises). Beaches on a number of islands provide globally important nesting areas for loggerhead turtles, and all five endangered sea turtle species forage in Cape Verdean coastal waters.
More than 60 shark and ray species also frequent these waters including threatened lemon and nurse sharks, which are found off the coast of the island of Maio.
Its location close to the capital island of Santiago means that Maio’s wildlife is coming under increasing pressure from boat traffic and coastal habitat destruction, as well as unsustainable and illegal fishing activities such as shark finning.
Shark conservation in particular is hampered by a lack of finance coupled with poor awareness of the importance of these species for ecosystem health, and as a result there is currently no effective protection for these species and their habitats around Maio.
Fauna & Flora International (FFI) is therefore working with local partners to ensure that Maio’s wildlife and important natural areas (particularly its network of marine protected areas) are well managed, with a view to replicating this model on other islands in the Cape Verdean archipelago.
We are working with local partners to help them strengthen their organisations and co-manage Maio’s marine protected areas more effectively. In addition, we are helping to raise awareness and understanding of key marine issues and sustainable management among communities in Maio and across Cape Verde. We aim to build political support for sustainable management and conservation, and encourage best practice throughout the archipelago.
With support from the Darwin Initiative, we are working with local communities to develop home-stay ecotourism activities following successful models developed on other islands in the archipelago. At the moment there are very few accommodation facilities for tourists visiting Maio; by working with coastal families we hope to generate additional income for them, reducing the pressure on marine resources and encouraging visitors to gain a better understanding of life in these isolated fishing communities.
We are supporting research aimed at boosting scientific understanding of Maio’s sharks and rays, while also engaging with local communities to address shark and ray conservation needs. Our goal is to encourage local stewardship of these species and foster more sustainable use and management practices.
Cape Verde is the third most important nesting area for loggerhead turtles in the world. Our ongoing work to support community-based monitoring has already led to a dramatic decline in poaching mortality among nesting females, a major step forward for this Endangered species.