Loggerhead turtle


This page covers the animals in Cape Verde. There is a new page covering plants in Cape Verde.

The islands that make up the Cape Verde archipelago are volcanic and were undiscovered until 1456 and not inhabited until 1462. No mammals lived on the islands originally. The animals in Cape Verde have either migrated by air or by sea, or were imported by residents and visitors.


Many birds visit the islands as they migrate between the north and south. These include herons, plovers, spoonbill, a variety of swallows and the African broad-billed roller. In total there are approximately 18 species that call in at Cape Verde during their migration.

Sea birds such as shearwaters, brown boobys, petrels and the intriguing frigate bird are also found on the islands. The frigate male displays a distinctive bright red pouch below its beak. Other birds found exclusively in Cape Verde include the Cape Verde barn owl and the Cape Verde sparrow.

Breeding birds living on the Cape Verde islands are numerous such as the brown necked raven, Cape Verde Petrel and the grey-headed kingfisher. Some of these are endemic to Cape Verde. These include the Cape Verde lark, which is honoured by having been pictured on bank notes; the Raso (or raza) island lark; and the Cape Verde warbler.

Birds of prey include peregrine falcons, ospreys and the Cape Verdean kite. The Cape Verdean kite was considered by some to be a distinct sub-species of red kite. Sadly they were declared extinct in 2000 and those that are seen to today are a hybrids with black kites.

Bird watchers have plenty to occupy them in Cape Verde.

Marine Life

Sea life abounds in the waters around the islands. The seas around Cape Verde are important as a site of marine biodiversity. Amongst the marine inhabitants are some 20 species of dolphin, whales and porpoise and over varieties of rays and sharks. Of particular interest to visitors to Cape Verde are the humpback whales, loggerhead turtles, dolphins and flying fish. There are five different species of turtle found in these waters.

You can see giant humpback whales and loggerhead turtles from many islands, including Sal, Maio and Boa Vista. Most islands offer diving where ship-wrecks and reefs can be explored alongside whales, dolphins, octopus and parrot fish. Eighteen species of whales and dolphin and five species of turtle have been recorded around the archipelago. Humpback whales breed in the the waters around Cape Verde. There are only two such breeding grounds in the northern hemisphere. Whale watching is a popular activity. You can sometimes see them from the land, but boat trips are also possible for closer viewing.

Open waters provide an abundance of aquatic life with plenty of big game fishing. Fish such as tuna, grouper and wahoo are caught around the islands.

Cape Verde is one of the world’s leading diving destinations – some would argue the best. Divers will see a wealth of fish including barracuda, snapper, bass, blue marlin, hammerhead sharks and angelfish. Because of its location, there are both cold and warm water fish in the seas around Cape Verde. The cool currents from the Canaries meet the warm seas from the Gulf of Guinea.

Most people associate turtles with Cape Verde. Loggerhead turtles, an endangered species, nest on the islands between June and October. They create nests in the sand dunes and lay their eggs. The babies make their way into the sea after hatching. Turtle watching in Cape Verde is one of the main attractions.

There are also a many of other things to see in the sea, including starfish, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, black coral and fire coral. Crustaceans that are endemic to Cape Verde include the Cape Verde spiny lobster, typton shrimp and a pea crab. There is also an endemic coral – balanosammia wirtzi.

Land Animals

There are a number of small animals on the islands including frogs, lizards and geckos, although some species have sadly become extinct. Small mice, wild rabbits and the slender mongoose are also found together with the green monkey, all of which were introduced along with domestic animals (cats and dogs). There are no snakes in Cape Verde.

Wild goats are found on the islands including Fogo. These are descended from domestic goats, brought to the islands by the Portuguese.

Grey long-eared bats are also found and are now considered to be endemic. As bats are technically mammals, this might therefore be the exception to the statement that there were no mammals. However, they have probably migrated here.

There are also several types of butterfly that can been seen in Cape Verde.

So if you love nature you will find plenty to interest you with the animals in Cape Verde.