On a far-flung African island, Fundação Príncipe Trust is succeeding with inspiring work
Guide book author with an extreme passion for Madagascar and Ethiopia!
08 Mar 2018
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The Fundação Príncipe Trust is doing great work towards conservation on Principe, the smaller of the two main islands in Sao Tome & Principe. Executive Director of the Trust, Estrela Matilde, enlightened us as to their progress.
Fundação Príncipe Trust (FPT) is hard at work on sustainable development in Principe, where it has become the guardian of conservation of this charming island's intriguing biodiversity. Nature-based tourism in collaboration with the permanently resident communities, is being used to improve livelihoods, as well as create awareness of conservation issues.
The FPT has been organising diverse research programmes and implementing the utilisation of sustainable tropical agricultural techniques as part of its work.
Starting with one donor back in 2015 – entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth – the Foundation has since grown, creating new partnerships and is now making great progress in terms of meeting Príncipe’s sustainable development challenges as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.
A relationship with Fauna & Flora International - which emphasises empowering of small NGOs and helps them to build strong partnerships with the Regional Governments - has been instrumental in the FPT's 'rebirth'. Today it has a staff 47, of whom 91% are nationals.
Currently the Trust, which is set to become an NGO, has several active and ongoing projects. It is engaged in building a database on Principe's biodiversity. A detailed botanical programme is under way, including transect studies and the creation of some wonderful Biosphere trails (8 in 2017, another 2 planned for 2018), These trails are much enjoyed by our guests, There is a programme aimed at conserving the seabirds of the Tinhosas Isles IBA (Important Bird Area), which we can also arrange a speedboat excursion to. Another project involves evaluation and monitoring of coral habitats around Principe. There is a small programme to monitor Cetaceans (whales, dolphins, porpoises) around the islands. (You can see humpbacks from around June to September, traditionally). But the initiative which most visitors ask about, is one that is focused on marine turtle conservation.
Executive Director Estrela Matilde explains that of the world's five marine turtle species, four come to nest on São Tomé, Of those, three nest on Príncipe. 'In Praia Grande we can see three species of turtles: Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas), Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) and the Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata)'., she explains. 'In São Tomé we can also sporadically find the Olive Ridley's (Lepidochelys olivacea) turtle nesting'.
Thanks to the efforts of the Regional Government this successful project includes a team of 10 beach and sea guards, and 22 seasonal guards. All of the beaches and the waters off Principe are monitored in partnership with the Coast Guard. The team also collects nesting data . Partnerships have been entered into with five hotels. More than 2000 records (nesting and attempted nesting) since the beginning of the late 2017 - early 2018 season were logged. Training was carried out for the ProTetuga team as well as for hotel staff.
During a visit to Sao Tome & Principe, you'll be able to enjoy exploring, botanising and birding along the Biosphere trails. You can snorkel in the underwater world off the islands and in season, we'll be only too pleased to help you arrange excursions to see whales and, if based on Principe, either nesting turtles or turtle hatchlings.