Fauna in cape verde

Terrestrial fauna

The Cape Verdean fauna is relatively poor and consists mainly of domestic animals such as dogs, cats, birds, small reptiles and also beetles and endemic insects. Other animals in the archipelago, such as horses, donkeys, cows or goats, can be found on almost every island. The same goes for the green monkey (Cercopithecus aethiops), present in some areas of Santiago and Brava, coming from African continent, and the cane toad (Rhinella diptycha). 

Among the main species of fauna, birds are particularly important, namely the Passarinha, the crow and the cream-colored- courser. In terms of fauna, there are 755 plant species, of which 83 are endemic and 224 are indigenous. The dragon tree is particularly important because it is a tree whose presence precedes the discovery of the archipelago itself.

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Birds of Cape Verde

Cape Verde’s birdlife is characterized by a remarkable biodiversity and includes about 150 species. The Passarinha (Halcyon leucocephala) is a small bird in blue, white and dark brown, with a long red beak, present in the islands of Santiago, Fogo and Brava. This species was adopted almost as a national symbol in the archipelago, being used in the coins of 10 escudos and in public and private entities, with its scientific name chosen to name even an airline of the country (Halcyonair). 

The frigatebird (Fregata magnificens) is a rare species and typically resident on the island of Boavista and it’s almost extinct. The last observation of this species occurred in 2016. With more than two meters of wingspan, this species reproduced only in islets of Curral Velho and Baluarte, in the south of Boavista, and in small numbers. 

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The crow (Corvus ruficollis) is one of the most frequently seen birds in Cape Verde. It is the only fully black bird in the archipelago, is about half a meter, and the largest population of this species is concentrated especially on the island of Santiago, as well as several species of  cattle egret (Bubulcus íbis), known locally as “manel pastor” for accompanying the quadrupeds in the pastures, capturing insects which loose from the herbs. Their arrival is usually a bucolic spectacle and at dusk they seek large trees to rest. 

Alcatraz (Sula leucogaster) is one of the best known species in the archipelago, particularly in Brava, Santiago and Boavista. It is a resident species of the country and always stays around the waters and the coast in search of food.

On stony or sandy soils in the country, it is possible to frequently encounter a small bird called Corredor (Cursorius cursor), with a camouflage that blends in with the landscape. It is very fast and in the air it shows a striking white band at the bottom of the wings. Pilrito ​​Sanderlingo (Calidris alba) is seen on the tranquil beaches of Cape Verde following the movement of the waves in the sand feeding on small crustaceans. Cape Verde’s Carricero (Acrocephalus brevipennis) is one of the endemic birds of the archipelago. He lives on several islands and is known locally as “tchota-de-cana” or “tchintchirote”. 

Laverca do Raso (Alauda razae), is about 13 cm long, is one of the rarest birds in the world, found only in Cape Verde in the islets between the islands of São Nicolau and Santa Luzia, feeding on grasses. Its extinction is considered to be high risk or critical.

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Marine fauna

The variety of fish species in the waters of Cape Verde is remarkable. Among many others, here we select some as bentopelagic, pelagic and others.

Benthopelagic :

  • the Atlantic grouper (Cephalopholis taeniops)
  • Channel sole (Syacium micrurum)
  •  the honeycomb moray (Muraena melanotis)
  • the purple mouth (Gymnothorax vicinus)
  • o pagello (Pagellus acarne)
  • the grouper of the islands (Mycteroperca fusca)

Pelagic :

  • the wahoo or acantocibio (Acanthocybium solandri)
  • the rainbow fish (Elagatis bipinnulata)
  • the dolphin fish (Coryphaena hippurus)
  • the peixa San Pedro (Zeus faber)
  • the barracuda (Sphryraena guachancho)

Deep-sea fish :

  • the golden carango (Caranx crysos)
  •  the palombo (Mustelus mustelus)
  • the redfish (Scorpaena scrofa)
  • the purple grouper (Mycteroperca rubra)
  • the ribbed pouch (Seriola rivoliana)
  • the redfish (Helicolenus dactylopterus)
  •  the white grouper (Epinephelus aeneus)
  • the African goat (Pargus africanus)
  •  various species of sargo

The Flying Fish (Exocoetus volitans), is a species that can be observed, making its long jumps out of the water on a catamaran or sport fishing excursion. Cape Verdean marine fauna is very rich. Stuffed with migratory species such as tuna of dry tail (Thunnus albacares), swordfish (Xiphias gladius), humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae), sea turtles and many dolphins. 

There is a wide variety of crustaceans in the seas of Cape Verde, especially on the low underwater platform that joins the three most easterly islands (Sal, Boavista and Maio), among which the most endemic species is the pink lobster (Panulirus charlestoni). 

The amount of fish is not as significant as when comparing the huge marine area of ​​the archipelago (200 times greater than the 4,000 km2 of land), due to the insufficiency of low platforms, which are limited to little more than that surrounding the islands to east (Sal, Boavista and Maio). It is estimated that the annual catch in Cape Verde waters is around 40,000 tonnes, but only one-fifth of this contingent is caught, almost always by hand, by a fleet of just over a thousand boats, used by around 3,000 fishermen.

In the shallow waters of Cape Verde we can also find several representative species of corals such as:

The most common corals:

  • the African schizocubine
  • the favia fraguant (in shallow waters)
  • several porites (such as asteroid porites, in warm and protected waters)
  • siderastrea, millepora and madrepore (in deeper waters)

In spring it is possible to observe migratory whales (mainly humpback whales) that usually appear very close to the coast of the island of Boavista. Some boats offer a daily navigation service, about 4 hours, to see and approach these magnificent animals. More information can be found here on the page: WHALES EXCURSION

During the summer it is possible to observe the nesting of hundreds of sea turtles on the islands of Boavista, Sal and Maio. More information can be found on the page: TURTLES EXCURSION