Cap Vert

Year of compilation: 2001

Site description (baseline)
This marine site consists of the coastline of the peninsula known as Cap Vert, running from les Mammelles and Pointe des Almadies north to Cambérène (c.19 km in length), together with the offshore islands and reefs and the narrow strip of sea between the islands and the mainland (up to about 2 km offshore). Cap Vert is the westernmost point of Africa and is the peninsula on which Dakar stands. The two islands in question are the Ile de Yof (also known as Ile de Tenguène) and the Ile de Ngor. The coast and islands consist of rocky outcrops and some sandy beaches, and there is a string of reefs off the Pointe des Almadies, known as the ‘Chaussée des Almadies’. The reefs and islands form a degree of natural protection from the Atlantic Ocean for the narrow sea channel (less than 1 km) between them and the mainland. Many migrating seabirds pass through this marine ‘bottleneck’, and large numbers also pass on the seaward side of the two islands.

Key biodiversity
See Box for key species. Larus audouinii is frequent to common off the Pointe des Almadies during January to March—numbers in the hundreds have been recorded flying south in October (counts of 132 in 1995 and 280 in 1996, each count consisting of several hours observation over several days, with a maximum single-day total of 77 on 10 October 1996).

The site is of considerable importance for sea- and waterbirds, particularly as a migration route along which move very large numbers of spring- (northward) and autumn- (southward) passage shearwaters, petrels, skuas, gulls and terns. Resident terns also use the site, perching on rocks all along the coast and foraging behind fishing boats at sea. Data on numbers of species are from seawatching counts made by a number of observers, particularly since 1990 (see Marr et al. 1998 for references and sources). Most of the observations were made either from the mainland (Pointe des Almadies) or from Ile de Ngor, together with a few pelagic counts made by observers from boats within 25 km of the shore. This means that the numbers listed in the Box are a mixture of birds moving overland or through the narrow sea channel between the islands and the mainland, and also some further out to sea (and not strictly within the IBA as defined here). However, since counts consist of only a few hours watching per day, over a period of days, they presumably represent considerable underestimates of the total numbers of birds passing through the site; no comprehensive count covering a whole season of passage has been undertaken.

Particularly significant numbers of terns and shearwaters have been recorded (see Box). For Sterna sandvicensis, 13,000 individuals have been recorded wintering along the coast from Kayar to Cap Vert (this area includes parts of two other IBAs—sites SN009 and SN010—but it seems safe to assume that a number in excess of the threshold for this species occur within the Cap Vert IBA boundary). There is also a passage count for S. sandvicensis of 1,206 birds during 48 hours observation over a period of eight days in October/November 1997. For Chlidonias niger, a total of 23,923 birds were observed during 78 hours of observation over 11 days in October 1996, with a single day maximum total of 12,645 on 12 October. Other species on passage include S. maxima (421 over a period of eight days in April 1992) and S. hirundo (1,580 over a period of eight days in April 1992 and 6,454 over a period of eight days in October/November 1997); these numbers are also close to IBA thresholds for these species. For Calonectris diomedea, 4,585 individuals were counted during a total of 64 hours observation over eight days during October and November 1997.

Non-bird biodiversity: The dolphin Tursiops truncatus (DD) is regularly seen, and it is likely that other dolphins, including Steno bredanensis (DD) and Stenella coeruleoalba (LR/cd), and the sea-turtle Caretta caretta (EN), recorded from the Parc National des Iles de la Madeleine (site SN010), will also be present in this site.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Many of the large numbers of passage seabirds pass out to sea beyond the offshore islands. However, many others are drawn in around the mainland Pointe des Almadies and the inner sea channel between the mainland and the islands may be particularly important in bad weather or adverse winds. The identification of the coast, inner sea channel and islands as an IBA is also justified by the close interaction between birds and people in this area. The most immediate threats from human disturbance or developments are likely to occur within the defined IBA. The site is not recognized by any formal government designation, but has recently been declared an ‘Aire du patrimoine communautaire’ or Community Heritage Area. This title formalizes the area’s traditional religious protected status and recognizes its natural, historical and religious importance.

Many of the coastal communities depend on fishing for their livelihood and there are strong links between the fishermen and seabirds. The fishermen use birds to indicate rich fishing areas and many foraging birds follow the fishing boats and pirogues (traditional canoes). The whole area is popular with tourists; there are numerous hotels along the mainland coast and regular public passenger ferries out to the islands, which could lead to localized disturbance. Children on surfboards have been observed catching terns (Sterna sandvicensis) with baited hooks in the channel on the seaward side of Ile de Ngor, but this practice appeared to have been stopped in 1997, following a report to the Senegalese authorities. Previous reports also noted extensive tern-trapping activity around the Cap Vert peninsula.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Cap Vert. Downloaded from on 02/06/2023.