Country/Territory São Tomé e Príncipe
Area 140 km2
Altitude 0 - 900m
Priority urgent
Habitat loss moderate
Knowledge incomplete

General characteristics

Príncipe lies in the middle of a chain of islands—which includes Bioko (part of EBA 086), São Tomé (EBA 082, with which it forms the twin-island nation of São Tomé e Príncipe) and Annobón (EBA 081)—situated off the west coast of Africa in the Gulf of Guinea (see p. 306 for map).

The island is volcanic and was once covered in tropical rain forest, but this was largely destroyed in the 1800s to make way for cash-crop plantations such as cocoa, sugar-cane and coffee. Since then, forest has regenerated extensively and, more recently, many plantations have reverted to secondary growth. Today primary forest is only found on the steepest slopes of the south-west of the island and has not been successfully visited by ornithologists during the twentieth century.

Restricted-range species

All the restricted-range species are forest birds and most appear to have adapted well to secondary growth and to plantations (where, traditionally, shade trees are retained). Detailed accounts of individual species can be found in Jones and Tye (1988) and Atkinson et al. (1991, 1994a).

Príncipe's distinctive avifauna includes the very interesting Horizorhinus dohrni, a bird in its own genus and of puzzling affinities, having been considered by different authorities to be a babbler, a flycatcher, a thrush and a warbler. Sibley and Monroe's (1990, 1993) taxonomic review elevated several Príncipe taxa to specific status, including Alcedo nais, although the status of this species remains uncertain; conversely, Príncipe Drongo Dicrurus (adsimilis) modestus, not elevated in the review, is regarded as a full species by some experts (Peet and Atkinson 1994).

Species IUCN Category
Sao Tome Bronze-naped Pigeon (Columba malherbii) NT
Sao Tome Spinetail (Zoonavena thomensis) LC
Principe Kingfisher (Corythornis nais) LC
Dohrn's Warbler (Sylvia dohrni) LC
Principe Speirops (Zosterops leucophaeus) NT
(Zosterops ficedulinus) NR
Principe Starling (Lamprotornis ornatus) LC
(Turdus olivaceofuscus) NR
Principe Sunbird (Anabathmis hartlaubii) LC
Principe Golden Weaver (Ploceus princeps) LC
Principe Seedeater (Crithagra rufobrunnea) LC

Important Bird Areas (IBAs)
IBA Code Site Name Country
ST004 Príncipe forests São Tomé e Príncipe

Threat and conservation

Approximately 90% of Príncipe is covered with primary and secondary forest, and many of the restricted-range species are consequently common. Nevertheless, habitat destruction remains the most important threat facing the endemic species as, owing to the small size of the island, any reduction in areas of suitable habitat could jeopardize the ability of some species to maintain a viable population (Peet and Atkinson 1994).

Two of the restricted-range species are considered threatened: the endemic Speirops leucophaeus, which is possibly declining, perhaps due to plantation development and pesticide use, and Zosterops ficedulinus, of which the Príncipe (nominate) race has not been seen since the 1970s, although the reasons for its scarcity are unclear. Additionally, the Príncipe (nominate) race of Serinus rufobrunneus is very scarce in accessible areas, while the race xanthorhynchus of Turdus olivaceofuscus has been considered extinct, although the recent discovery of three thrush anvils provides the strongest evidence yet of its continuing existence (Christy 1996). Dicrurus (adsimilis) modestus (see 'Restricted-range species', above) may be threatened if increased pesticide use reduces its invertebrate prey (Atkinson et al. 1991).

Príncipe's remaining primary forest was proposed for protection as a national park by Jones and Tye (1988) and Jones et al. (1991), and was gazetted as such in 1993 (Jones 1994a). It is believed that the establishment of a 'Free Zone' on Príncipe to provide services to the oil-rich countries around the Gulf of Guinea is not currently a cause for concern (the multinational consortium concerned has agreed to the need for independent environmental impact assessments and is committed to the protection of the area's unique ecosystems). However, because a significant part of the proposed concession area is within the core zone of the proposed protected-area system, potential conflicts between the developer's land-use proposals and conservation issues need to be resolved as soon as possible (Gulf of Guinea Conservation Newsl. 1996, 5: 1-3).

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2019) Endemic Bird Areas factsheet: Príncipe. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 18/09/2019.