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Natural History of the Sao Tome and Principe

The natural history of the Sao Tome islands has fascinated visitors since their decovery in 1475. The islands were born from volcanoes erupting violently out of the sea. Plant and animal species traversed 180 miles of ocean to colonize the islands, leaving species isolated and evolving independently on different islands.

 

 

 

 

 

In the 500 years of human history, the islands have been used as hub for trans-atlantic slave trade, naval ports and plantation colonies. Since the late nineteeth century this species-rich and botanically under explored islands has drawn attention from researchers. At time, Júlio Henriques (1838-1928) and Arthur Exell (1901-1993), respectively a professor with the University of Coimbra and a scientist with the British Museum, carried out the most thorough studies on santomean vegetation - The first flora monograph of São Tomé e Principe published on 1886 and  Catalogue of the Vascular Plants of S.Tome published on 1944.

Of the four islands on the Gulf of Guinea - Bioko, Príncipe, São Tomé and Pagalu -, the santomean archipelago presents the richest diversity of flora, with high rates of endemism. In fact, since 1988 researchers has classified the forests of Sao Tomé and Principe as the second most important in terms of biological interest of the 75 forests of Africa. The WWF reserchs expedition to the country also classified the Sao Tome and Principe forests as one of the 200 most important biodiversity area in the world. Birdlife International included Sao Tome island in the top 25% of 218 "Endemic Bird Area" (EBAs) worldwide and  the forest of both islands have been included among the "Important Bird Area" (IBAs) of Africa for their species richness .

The presence of Sao Tome and Principe in this lists testifies its exceptional nature. Of the 700 local plant types, about 100 of these are only found in Sao Tome and Principe, including a begonia that grows up to 3m high, and unique orchids flowers. With about 1001km2 of land, Sao Tome and Principe has 28 endemic birds species. Only the Sao Tome Island has 21 endemic species. This is an extraordinary number because islands with the similar dimensions usually have 1 to 2 endemic bird species.

The atlantic rain forest of high altitude, Obô, contains the majority of the fauna and flora that gave Sao Tome and Principe its exceptional classification. The Obo Natural Park was created in 1993 to protect Sao Tome and Principe islands unique natural heritage. Come with us and discover an undiscovered land in the geology of the Sao Tome and Principe islands, a unique spot of the earth with an environment nearly untouched by man.

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