The Bijagós archipelago is a group of 88 mangrove and palm-fringed islands and islets spread across 2,500 square kilometres of the Atlantic off the coast of Guinea-Bissau.

A magical, wild place, its rich flora and fauna includes several species of monkeys, gazelles, crocodiles, dolphins, manatees, turtles, migratory birds and a rare herd of saltwater hippopotamus.

Formosa (c) Hellio Van Ingen

Uninhabited refuge

That only around 20 islands are populated year-round means the mangroves, forests, savannah and sand banks are relatively undisturbed. And narrow channels make a unique refuge for wildlife, away from commercial fishing boats.

Luc Hoffmann discovered the Bijagós in the late 1990s, just as he was becoming aware of the need for an ecoregional approach to conservation in the West African region.

Today, MAVA supports a network of protected areas in the islands, created in 2004 and managed by the local Bijagó and the Institute of Biodiversity and Protected Areas (IBAP).

 

Need for vigilance

The Bijagós were designated a Biosphere Reserve in 1996 and a coastal wetland of international importance in 2014.

An initiative to nominate the islands for World Heritage listing is now underway but they still face many challenges. Fishing, tourism and oil exploration intensification all pose threats to people and nature.

Meio Island (c) Hellio Van Ingen

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