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The Arquipélago dos Bijagós is composed of 88 islands and a large intertidal area of mudflat and mangrove. Some 20 of the islands are permanently inhabited as, seasonally, are a further 20. The archipelago is situated just off the coast, opposite the mouth of the Rio Gêba. The land area of the archipelago is some 90,000 ha while a further 100,000 ha or so are uncovered twice daily by the retreating tide, of which 76,000 ha are mudflats and 35,000 ha mangroves. The Ilhas de Orango National Park includes the most southerly group of islands, of which the main ones are Orango, Canogo, Imbone, Meneque and Orangozinho, which have a land area of 27,000 ha. The boundary of the park extends to 10 km offshore and the park includes forest, coastal wooded savanna, mangroves (17,400 ha), channels and shallow seas. The João Vieira / Poilão Marine National Park includes four small islands in the south-east of the archipelago and a large area (495 km²) of ocean (mostly excluded from the IBA). Although part of the Biosphere Reserve, the Ilha de Bolama, the island nearest the mainland, is excluded since it forms part of IBA GW005, for the reasons given in the description of that site.
See Box for key species. This area is second only in importance in West Africa to the Banc d’Arguin in Mauritania (IBA MR007) for the numbers of Palearctic waders present during the northern winter. It has been estimated that up to 700,000 birds occur in the archipelago at this time. The area also includes a number of heronries as well as breeding colonies of ibises, gulls and terns.
Non-bird biodiversity: Five species of turtle breed in the archipelago; Chelonia mydas (EN), Caretta caretta (EN), Lepidochelys olivacea (EN), Eretmochelys imbricata (CR) and Dermochelys coriacea (EN). The Ilhéu do Poilão is the main nesting area for C. mydas in the eastern Atlantic. Ilha João Vieira and Ilha Orango are also important nesting sites. The largest Trichechus senegalensis (VU) population in West Africa is found here. The crocodile Osteolaemus tetrapsis (VU) also occurs while the dolphins Sousa teuszii (DD) and Tursiops truncatus (DD) are common. Mangrove species include the rare Laguncularia racemosa.
BirdLife International (2021) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Arquipélago dos Bijagós. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 13/04/2021.