Working for birds in Africa

Exploring "African Galapagos" uncovers mysterious rare birds

Date posted: 
Sunday, April 8, 2018

The island of São Tomé, off the west coast of central Africa, is truly one of a kind.

The island's rugged landscape is a refuge for species such as the Newton's Sunbird © Lars Petersson

It’s not called the “African Galapagos” for nothing. The island of São Tomé, off the west coast of central Africa, is truly one of a kind. For a start, it has a remarkable level of endemism for such a small island: 17 of its 50 bird species are confined to that island alone. It is also unusual in that it has no recorded human-driven bird extinctions – yet.

The island’s rugged landscape has protected its bird population from human influence, but this has proven a double-edged sword, making it difficult to survey the island. And it does need to be surveyed. Because, as every conservationist knows, knowledge is power. We can’t conserve a species unless we know where they live, which habitats they prefer, what’s threatening them and how many (or how few) there are. The full story of this epic project can be read here.

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