Hotspot in the sea

Situated in the Atlantic Ocean, 460 km off the coast of Africa, Cape Verde is an archipelago nation formed of ten major islands and a number of smaller, uninhabited islets.

The majority of the islands feature both flat lowland plains and sharp, jagged mountains, reflecting the chain’s volcanic origins. Most of the islands have a very dry climate, but despite this the country is home to a wide variety of plant and animal species.

In particular, Cape Verde is recognised as a global hotspot for marine biodiversity, and supports a high diversity of emblematic and unique marine animals, including over 20 species of whale, dolphin and porpoise. 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 along with myriad flamboyantly coloured fish.

Cape Verde facts
Country in Africa

Size (land & water):

4,033 km²

Population (2016 est.):

553,432

GDP per capita (2016 est.):

US$6,700

Cape Verde is an archipelago nation situated in the Atlantic Ocean, 460 km off the west coast of Africa.

3,512

terrestrial species have been recorded so far in Cape Verde – 20% of these are included on the IUCN Red List.

Under 1%

of Cape Verde’s marine area is effectively protected.

Our work to protect Cape Verde’s biodiversity

Fauna & Flora International’s (FFI) work in Cape Verde is focused on the island of Maio, which is home to key populations of threatened lemon and nurse sharks and supports one of the world’s most important loggerhead turtle nesting sites. A variety of bird species are also found here, including cream-coloured coursers, Egyptian vultures and – on the island’s expansive salt marshes – Kentish plovers.

Maio’s proximity to the capital island of Santiago means, however, that its 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 sharks and their habitats around Maio.

We are therefore working with our local partner, the Maio Biodiversity Foundation, to build their capacity and establish the foundations for better marine conservation in the waters around the island. Communities living in Maio have been closely involved in this work, with many fishers now acting as ‘guardians of the sea’ to report breaches in fishing regulation and to support research efforts.

The aim is to expand this work to replicate the successes seen on Maio across the entire island chain.