The Cape Verde archipelago is a global marine biodiversity hotspot, supporting a wealth of emblematic and endemic marine species, including 17 species of whale and dolphin, more than 60 shark and ray species, and five species of marine turtle (including one of the three largest nesting populations of loggerhead turtles in the world). To date our marine work has focused on Maio, the closest island to the capital Santiago, which is under increasing pressure from tourism, coastal habitat destruction, and unsustainable and illegal fishing.

FFI and partners are tackling these threats by supporting a network of five marine protected areas around the island. The project recognises that there is significant dependence on marine resources on the island, and that there is insufficient local capacity to successfully manage these resources. We are addressing these issues with the full participation of local communities, through a series of awareness raising and livelihood diversification activities. Key initiatives include the Guardians of the Sea monitoring programme, which offers incentives to local fishers to report illegal activities in their fishing zones, and the development of a homestay programme to provide alternative revenue streams for village households.

Almost 80% of Cape Verde’s 92 endemic plants are threatened with extinction, including the phoenix palm, iron tree and the Cape Verdean dragon tree. All three of these trees are found on Brava, the most remote and, consequently, one of the most untouched of Cape Verde’s islands. With no official protected areas, Brava’s three threatened tree species are all under pressure from over-use and grazing by goats. Invasive plants cover large areas of the island and there is evidence of hybridisation between a non-native palm and the endemic phoenix palm, which could lead to a loss of valuable genetic resources in the future.

In partnership with local conservation organisation Biflores – Cape Verde’s first and only flora-focused conservation NGO, and Brava’s only conservation organisation – we are working, through the Global Trees Campaign, to better understand and manage the main threats to Brava’s threatened trees. We aim to improve natural regeneration by working with livestock owners to develop sustainable grazing management plans and by installing fencing around the most threatened trees. Through outreach efforts with local stakeholders, we also seek to boost the profile of these special trees within local communities and encourage people to take action to conserve them.

We are grateful for financial support from Fondation Franklinia and the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund.