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Protecting the unique and threatened seas and forests of São Tomé and Príncipe

Project
Project lead: Berry Mulligan

São Tomé and Príncipe is a tropical archipelago nation nestled in the Gulf of Guinea. Due to its remote location, it is a biodiversity hotspot with many species found nowhere else in the world. We and our local partners are working with island communities to better understand and conserve the country’s unique forests and marine habitats, protecting threatened species and providing benefits for local livelihoods.

The forests of Príncipe are among the 200 most important biodiversity areas in the world. Recognising the importance of protecting the island’s endemic plant and animal species, in 2016 Fauna & Flora began extensive island-wide biodiversity surveys and 3D mapping to better understand the conservation efforts required. The surveys found dozens of endemic bird, invertebrate and reptile species – many of which are already facing extinction and remain poorly known or even undescribed in science. Urgent action (including research) for the critically endangered Príncipe thrush was identified as a high priority, with fewer than 300 individuals left in the wild.

The ocean around São Tomé and Príncipe is a marine biodiversity hotspot due to its high levels of species endemism. Sadly, however, overfishing and destructive fishing practices are posing an increasing threat and contributing to the rapid decline of fish stocks and degradation of marine ecosystems. This poses a serious threat to local fishing communities who rely on marine resources for their livelihoods. Fauna & Flora is therefore working with partners on the islands to engage with local stakeholders, including government and coastal communities, to promote sustainable use of marine resources through the establishment of co-managed marine protected areas.

Aerial footage of the lush rainforest canopy of the island of Príncipe.

Objectives

We aim to protect Príncipe’s remarkable forests and their wildlife by:

  • Establishing conservation initiatives to protect the Príncipe thrush, including conducting research, stabilising its population, and reducing illegal hunting.
  • Conducting baseline population assessments of several undescribed bird, invertebrate, and reptile species.
  • Increasing understanding and protection of Príncipe’s threatened and important tree species.
  • Supporting and building the capacity of local organisations and individuals to carry out conservation work.

We aim to protect the ocean around São Tomé and Príncipe by:

  • Establishing a network of 1,000 km2 of marine protected areas (MPAs) and sustainable use zones to promote the recovery of marine ecosystems and biodiversity through the reduction of unsustainable and illegal fishing.
  • Increasing and diversifying the livelihoods of local communities, and ensuring their participation in the establishment and management of the MPAs.
Fauna & Flora partner Fundação Príncipe monitoring Príncipe thrush habitat. Príncipe island is home to at least eight bird species that occur nowhere else in the world. © Vasco Pissarra / Fundação Príncipe

Fauna & Flora partner Fundação Príncipe monitoring Príncipe thrush habitat. Príncipe island is home to at least eight bird species that occur nowhere else in the world. © Vasco Pissarra / Fundação Príncipe

Yodiney dos Santos (Fundação Príncipe), Aramis Andrade (Fundação Príncipe), Tania Bird (Fauna & Flora), Ayres Pedronho (Fundação Príncipe). Conducting research on Príncipe thrush habitat.

Our work

Our work in São Tomé and Príncipe strikes a balance between direct conservation action and securing sustainable local livelihoods. Initiatives include raising environmental awareness, building conservation capacity, and diversifying the livelihoods of communities, in particular through direct support to local partner organisations.

Forests

Fauna & Flora conducted the first systematic botanical survey of the island. As the biggest joint plant research effort ever to be undertaken on Príncipe, 1,200 trees were recorded, 110 different species observed, and 450 herbarium samples were collected for further investigation. Our work to better understand Príncipe’s trees – from their distribution across the island to how they are used by local people – enables informed decision-making about how best to conserve them.

Marine

Fauna & Flora and its three local partners are currently engaging with local stakeholders to establish more sustainable marine resource use practices around the islands. This work includes consultations with local communities as part of the marine spatial planning process, as well as engagement with the national government.

Samples of plants used as traditional medicine in Príncipe. © Laura Benitez / Fauna & Flora

Samples of plants used as traditional medicine in Príncipe. © Laura Benitez / Fauna & Flora

Samples of plants used as traditional medicine in Príncipe.

Key milestones

    2020

    Thirty-two breeding pairs of brown-footed boobies are tagged during a collaborative expedition to the Tinhosas islets. In the same year, suspected new tree species are discovered in Príncipe National Park.

    2018

    Inception of the Blue Action Fund marine project.

    2016

    Campanha Captura Zero, the ‘zero capture’ campaign for marine turtles, is launched.
    3D maps of forests are created using a drone.

    2015

    Fauna & Flora first visits Príncipe and forms a partnership with the Príncipe Trust Foundation.

    2012

    Príncipe is designated a UNESCO Biosphere reserve.

Beekeeping in Principe. © Laura Benitez / Fauna & Flora

Working with partners to save nature together

Partnership is at the very heart of our organisation and is central to everything we do. We work collaboratively with a huge range of local people and groups – from communities, governments, NGOs and businesses based locally, to international organisations, corporations and multilateral bodies – to save nature, together.

Help us to do more

Beekeeping in Principe. © Laura Benitez / Fauna & Flora

Berry Mulligan profile picture

Berry Mulligan

Senior Programme Manager (Marine), Eurasia

Berry grew up in Bristol, UK, but spent many weekends as a teenager watching wildlife in the surrounding countryside and in the city itself. While completing a degree in Ecology from the University of East Anglia, Berry learnt Spanish and worked with NGOs in El Salvador and Costa Rica on sea turtle conservation projects. In 2006 he was lucky enough to join Fauna & Flora as Programme Officer for the Americas & Caribbean regional programme. He later jumped at the chance to work with Fauna & Flora in Asia, and became the Country Manager of the Cambodia Programme in 2011. Returning to his interest in marine and coastal conservation he is now focusing on developing marine conservation projects for Fauna & Flora, and he hopes to help the Cambodian Government establish the country’s first marine protected area around two offshore tropical islands.