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Principe puts biodiversity hotspot on the map

SPEA maps palm oil company’s effect on local biodiversity

So Tom and Prncipe, an island nation located in the Gulf of Guinea, off the western equatorial coast of Central Africa, is probably one of the last unknown biodiversity hotspots in Africa. The country’s forests are home to 28 species of endemic birds, an extraordinary number considering the country’s size (the Galapagos, which is eight times bigger, has 22).

Habitat destruction, together with the absence of any census or monitoring schemes, are the country’s biggest threats. In 2010 the So Tom and Prncipe Government signed a contract with Agripalma (a joint venture between the company Socfinco and the So Tom Government), loaning a 5,000 hectare concession to plant oil palm. According to Agripalma, this size would be necessary in order to secure the profitability of this venture. Unfortunately, and according to SPEA’s (Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds, BirdLife in Portugal) previous visits, these 5,000 hectares include rich secondary forest zones located in the surroundings or directly within the Ob Natural Park. This Park covers one third of the island and is home to some of the most endangered birds of the world, such as the critically endangered Dwarf Olive Ibis Bostrychia bocagei, the So Tom Fiscal Lanius newtoni and the So Tom Grosbeak Neospiza concolor.

If we are serious about preserving these iconic species while allowing a sustainable country’s development, we must act and we must do it now.

Following an assessment done in 2012, a joint mission this month led by SPEA and funded by RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds), will arrive in So Tom. Counting on the support of local ABS (Associao de Bilogos So Tomenses), SPEA’s wholesale jerseys shop biologist Nuno Barros will spend two months mapping all the areas currently affected by the Agripalma palm oil company. The results of these surveys will be made available to both Agripalma and the So Tom and Prncipe government in order to inform further decision making.

But SPEA’s objectives are not only focusing on the terrestrial species. With the support of BirdLife’s Global Seabird Programme, and counting on the vital sponsorship offered by Bom Bom Island Resort, SPEA will lead BirdLife’s first expedition to the Tinhosas Islands.

Bom Bom Island Resort sponsors the SPEA expedition

This tiny archipelago, located 12 miles south west of Principe Island, hosts more than 300,000 breeding seabirds, including Brown Booby Sula leucogaster, Sooty Tern Sterna fuscata, Brown Noddy Anous stollidus, Black Noddy Anous minutus and the White tailed Tropicbird Phaethon lepturus. Some other species, such as the Bridled Tern Sterna anaethetus and Madeiran Storm petrel Oceanodroma castro, could also be breeding there, but so far has not been confirmed.

“We are very excited about this field trip” says SPEA’s biologist Nuno Barros. On Thursday 4 September, the Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux (LPO, BirdLife in France).

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As many other bird species in Europe, the Common Quail and the Turtle Dove are being victims of a common practice that brings only concerns to the bird lovers: an uncontrolled hunting for which the laws seem not to be.

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Imagine a place where the Armenian, Turkish, Iranian and Azerbaijani borders converge on the banks of the Araks River, a place home to 220 bird species, a place full of water, plants and animal

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