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Razo Birds, Cape Verde

financed on the 15.04.2013

Project data

Razo Island

750 €

of 750 € Target Amount


Three islands, Santa Luzia, Branco and Razo, constitute the Protected Sea Area of Santa Luzia in Cape Verde. On the island of Razo, several important species of birds nest, including Cape Verde shearwater which is endemic to the Cape Verde, Bulwer's petrel Bulweria bulwerii (Bulwer's Petrel) Madeiran storm-petrel Oceanodroma castro and Razo lark Alauda Razae (Razo Lark). The entire world population of Razo lark, a species classified as Critically Endangered, is confined to the island of Razo! For these reasons, “Ilhéu Razo” is internationally recognized as one of Cape Verde's 11 Important Bird Areas and as an Alliance for Zero Extinction site, one of 587 established globally to save the world’s 920 most endangered species.

For these birds, the uninhabited island of Razo is a shelter, not a paradise: Razo larks are threatened with extinction. Historically, the evidence of bones is that the species probably occurred on other Cape Verde islands, but rapidly disappeared following 15th Century human colonisation. On Razo the population reached its lowest level of about 20 pairs in the late 1970s to early 1980s. The Cape Verde shearwater is also in danger: victims of a local gastronomic tradition, every year, thousands of birds are caught and killed by poachers. This problem has increased with the availability of motorized boats.

Six years ago, tired of seeing the degradation of their natural heritage, Jose and his son Tommy decided to take action and protect birds on the island of Razo. In 2006, they created their association Biosfera 1 and have since then conducted surveillance and monitoring campaigns. It is their surveillance that prevents the massacre of the shearwaters. Their monitoring work has also helped in following the fluctuating population of the larks.
During the shearwater protection campaigns, Jose and Tommy lead surveillance missions, often in difficult conditions at night when seabirds return to their nesting burrows, where they identify wildlife, focusing especially on the bird populations of Razo. Then, with the help of experts, they analyze and publish data.
The surveillance and monitoring campaigns are creating a database to better understand the trends in the bird populations and the dangers that threaten them.
As José explains, "we cannot change people's habits from one day to the next. What we can do is conduct monitoring campaigns to protect wildlife, campaigns to identify the causes of fluctuations of species, and also awareness campaigns to re-establish the balance between man and nature ".

My name is Jose Melo and this is my son Tommy. We are Cape Verdeans from the island of Sao Vicente, which is located next to the three islands of the Protected Sea Area of Santa Luzia. I used to be a captain on industrial fishing boats, and Tommy used to spend his free time diving and spearfishing. Our fascination for nature, especially for the sea, has always guided us.
Today, given the degradation of our natural resources in Cape Verde, I decided to abandon my boats and dedicate myself to protecting our ecosystem. For six years now, together with my son we conduct on the Razo island annual birds monitoring campaigns and ongoing monitoring from May to November. In addition, through exhibitions on the diversity of wildlife and also - unfortunately - on its degradation, we sensitize our fellow citizens on the importance of protecting our natural resources.

How will your donation help the project?

With your donation, we will be able to acquire the equipment necessary to strengthen our monitoring campaigns for the birds on the island of Razo. This equipment includes a pair of binoculars, dry bags to transport samples and a portable unit for desalination of seawater.
This will help protecting a fragile ecosystem, home to several unique species of birds.
Your donation will also help saving the lives of 7,000 pairs of Cape Verde shearwater! For this project, Jose has the support of FIBA , and, in particular, their ecopartners Mériaux Simon and Julien Semelin. They have expertise and experience in support of protected sea areas and local actors.

Ecopartner for Razo Birds



Haïder El Ali is one of the most prominent ecological figures in West Africa. Driven by his firm conviction and willingness, he devotes every day to preserve the ecosystem of his country. He leads the Oceanium Association in Senegal, and travels to every corner of West Africa in order to convince everyone through discussion, organizing or action to preserve the sea and its resources, as well as the rivers and the forests.


20.11.2014 › Financial project report of Razo Birds and Sea turtles

Dear Ecofund Community, please find below the accounts of expenditures for the projects Razo Birds and Sea Turtles in Cape Verde.

Thanks to your donations, the project team has been able to procure the necessary equipement for the monitoring of turtles and birds.

Many THANKS to all contributors!!!

02.04.2014 › News from birds on the Branco and Razo Islands, Cape Verde

Biosfera I, our Ecofund Champions from Cape Verde, share with us photos from their birds monitoring campaigns on the Branco and Razo islands.

It is their surveillance that prevents the massacre of the shearwaters. Their monitoring work has also helped in following the fluctuating population of the larks.

During the shearwater protection campaigns, Jose and Tommy lead surveillance missions, often in difficult conditions at night when seabirds return to their nesting burrows, where they identify wildlife, focusing especially on the bird populations of Razo. Then, with the help of experts, they analyze and publish data.

The surveillance and monitoring campaigns are creating a database to better understand the trends in the bird populations and the dangers that threaten them.

The photos show:

  1. The team marking nesting area of Shearwater
  2. Monitoring Brown boobys colonies
  3. Measuring eggs for data base
  4. Cape Verde shearwater on the Branco Island
  5. Endemic Lizard on the Branco Island

Enjoy !!!

07.06.2012 › Project update2012-06-07

Our Cape Verde Champions celebrated on 22nd Mai the World Biodiversity Day on 22nd:

Tommy and José met with all school children of Sao Vicente to show case Cape Verde’s biodiversity, discuss their problems and motivate the children to preserve their beautiful natural heritage.

01.06.2012 › Interview with José Melo our Champion from Cape Verde

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!

26.04.2012 › Project update2012-04-26

We want our Cape Verde champions, Tommy and Jose, to succeed with their ecoprojects. Thus, we have prolonged the deadline to give you enough time to contribute to their ecoproject, and to so to help protecting sea birds and marine turtles of the Santa Luzia archipelago.

Remember: Mariana Ramos, Cape Verde’s music ambassador offers the 25 most generous donors an autographed copy of her latest album!

02.04.2012 › Portrait of Mariana Ramos

Cape Verde is rallying around our champions Tommy and Jose!

The singer Mariana Ramos, ambassador of the Cape Verde’s music, is now joining our side to help protect the birds and sea turtles of Santa Luzia.

The Dakar-born singer finds her inspiration in Cape Verde, home of her ancestors, where she also lived as a child. Her unique voice and her “suave” music draws its energy from the tradition of her “small country”. A mix between funana and batucu, rhythms inherited from the slaves of Santiago Island, and la morna and la coladeira, folk melodies, it is the joy, and the multicultural richness of Cape Verde that Mariana embodies on stages worldwide. The public acclaim her in Paris and throughout Europe, her concerts are always sold out!

Mariana, Tommy and Jose invite you to join them: the 25 most generous donors will receive an autographed copy of her latest album! Thank you for your donation to the projects of Jose and Tommy!

Follow Marianna on www.mariana-ramos.com

Photo : Lionel Baunot

05.03.2012 › Bem vindo a Cabo Verde!

Not far off the Senegalese coast are the sprinkling of islands that share the winds and the Atlantic ocean: the Cape Verde archipelago; well known for its music and highly appreciated for its beautiful natural environment, which our champions Tommy and Jose are determined to preserve!

The archipelago of Cape Verde consists of ten volcanic islands and five small islets: the northern islands, Santo Antao, Sao Vicente, Sao Nicolao, Sal and Boa Vista are exposed to strong winds: the southern islands are the Leeward Islands: Santiago, Brava, Fogo and Maio. Each island is different; sometimes flat, sometimes with cliffs and hills, some are eroded by wind, others lined with long beaches, or mountainous with small squatterred villages; green or arid; the diversity of the islands reflects the cultural mix of their habitants.

The Cape Verdean population originates from Europe (Portugal) and Africa, reflecting the history of the archipelago. Victims of famine due to the aridity of the earth, the Cape Verdeans emigrated en masse to the United States, Europe and some African countries including Senegal and Angola. Today, the Cape Verdean diaspora is larger than the actual population on the islands: about 700,000 nationals abroad to 500,000 in the country.

Like its people, the culture of Cape Verde reflects a mixture of cultures dominated by a festive lifestyle; carnival and music. Among many musical styles of Cape Verde, Moma, a mixture of Portuguese fado, African rhythms and Argentinian tango is the best known because of its most famous interpretatior, Cesaria Evora, born in Mindelo! But despite the popularity of the Moma we should not forget the Coladeira (Afro-Brazilian rhythms) and Funana (similar to the Caribbean zouk) and the most traditional Batuque, dialogues sung by rhythmic African percussion.

Tommy and Jose invite you to discover the tremendous cultural and natural wealth of these islands!