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Interview with José Melo our Champion from Cape Verde

Posted 01.06.2012 - View comments

Hello José! We are very happy meeting you here in Praia…
Yes, I've been in Praia for two weeks! Every year it's the same thing: I have to come to apply to the authorities for work permission in the protected marine areas!

Could you tell us about your activities in 2012?
2012 is going to be a turning point for me and my association Biosfera! In fact, you should know that in Cape Verde, Biosfera is the only NGO doing this kind of work. Traditionally, we concentrate our efforts on the protected marine areas. At the moment, many Cape-Verdeans support our organization, which is very gratifying, but also difficult for us to manage, as Cape Verde consists of 10 islands which make travelling time and money consuming! This year, we are going to mobilize the youth and the inhabitants of the other islands to set up their own locally based NGOs. With our experience, we are going to train them in monitoring the birds and the turtles, as well as in submarine monitoring of the sharks.
In March, we organized an exhibition showcasing the six years of Biosfera. We presented our activities to protect the whales, dolphins, birds, the 5 species of turtles that can be found in Cape Verde, as well as our activities promoting renewable energy. We also continue our educational work in the schools of Mindelo. We are going to start controlling the rats and cats populations in order to be able to reintegrate the birds and reptiles in Santa Luzia. If we don't do that, the cats and rats will eat them all!

Tell us why should we protect the birds of Razo ?
I'll try to explain briefly, although this question deserves a much longer response! After World War II, the Cape Verdeans started to eat the birds because of a terrible famine on the archipelago at the time. The problem is that even after the war ended, the population kept on eating the birds, hence creating a new local tradition. Yet the birds are very important for the local population, especially for the fishermen. If the birds don’t show them the track, the fishermen won’t know where the fish are! In more general terms, the birds are essential to maintaining the balance in the whole of ecosystem!

I remember the first time I stayed with my dad at the island of Santa Luzia and Razo when I was 11. There were lots of birds, everywhere, over the sea and on the islands. Then, 30 years later, I suddenly realized that the birds had disappeared.

For the last 3 years, we have been monitoring all the young birds that were born here. We put a numbered band to each and we follow their development until they leave. The thing to keep in mind is that a bird that was born on the island this year will not come back for nesting until 8 or 9 years later! So the first birds that we monitored will not come back for another few years, and only then we will know for sure if birds are well and once again numerous on Razo. With Tommy, my son, we are going to continue our efforts until there is a change;

I'd like to use this opportunity to thank Ecofund for its support, as well as Mariana Ramos who will perform a special concert in Cape Verde in June... to promote our actions: you should come to it!