Lying almost 500 kilometres off the west coast of Africa, the remote archipelago nation of Cape Verde is arguably among the least well-known of the world’s marine biodiversity hotspots. All that could be about to change.
Thanks to the efforts of Fundação Maio Biodiversidade (FMB), with whom Fauna & Flora International (FFI) has partnered since 2012, the island of Maio has been officially designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, ensuring that the country is now well and truly on the conservation map.
Cape Verde supports a rich diversity of marine life, including over 20 species of whale, dolphin and porpoise. All five of the world’s most threatened sea turtle species forage in its coastal waters, along with more than 60 shark and ray species.
Maio itself is home to key populations of threatened lemon and nurse sharks, harbours one of the world’s most important loggerhead turtle nesting sites and provides a haven for myriad migratory birds. In recent years, however, this wildlife has faced increasing pressure from boat traffic and coastal habitat destruction, as well as unsustainable and illegal fishing activities such as shark finning.