6 Apr 2018
Conservationists braved the mountainous landscape of São Tomé Island in the first ever comprehensive study of three elusive bird species, with fascinating results. But their findings also highlight the urgent need for better management of its Natural Park.
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.
What we do know is this. Among the island’s 17 endemic bird species, nine are classed as globally threatened, with three listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List: the Newton’s Fiscal Lanius newtoni, São Tomé Grosbeak Crithagra concolor and Dwarf Olive Ibis Bostrychia bocagei. These three species formed the focus of an intrepid survey to discover more about the secretive forests of this island.