In February this year, BirdLife International sponsored a two-day expedition, of which SPEA/BirdLife in Portugal also took part, to Tinhosas islands in São Tomé e Príncipe. The principle objectives was to conduct a census of breeding birds, and assess trends and threats. São Tomé e Príncipe holds one of the most impressive seabird colonies in the eastern tropical Atlantic Ocean, especially abundant for the Brown Booby (Sula leucogaster), Sooty Tern (Sterna fuscata), and Black Noddy (Anous minutus). The last assessment of the Tinhosas colony was completed in 1997, and since then accounts of exploitation of the birds for human consumption have raised concern about its conservation status. After two days of seabird census in intense tropical heat and a night spent amongst large numbers of land crabs, the results showed that while some species registered a slight increase, others, like Brown Booby are showing evidence of a steep decrease from the previous 1997 census figures. Although none of the species breeding there is globally threatened, this is the only seabird colony of any significance in the Gulf of Guinea. Therefore, assessing the populations’ health and protecting the colonies from human impacts is of great value.
BirdLife International currently does not have a local partner in São Tomé e Príncipe. SPEA’s engagement has therefore been extremely useful in this small tropical island country, where the team could engage with local biologists in the same language, Portuguese.
Nuno Barros, SPEA’s Marine Programme Assistant