Baía das Cagarras, Selvagem Grande
Cory's Shearwater with Selvagem Pequena on the background
Ilhas Selvagens are a bird sanctuary that shelters some of the most important seabird colonies in the world, including the largest colony of Cory's shearwaters Calonectris diomedea borealis in the world, with around 13,600 mating pairs and an even larger colony of White-faced Storm-petrels Pelagodroma marina hypoleuca, with a population of 61,000 pairs, dispersed across Selvagem Grande and Selvagem Pequena. Also found here are Bulwer's petrel Bulweria bulwerii with a population of 4,000 pairs, Macaronesian Shearwater Puffinus baroli with 2,700 pairs, and the Madeiran Storm-petrel Oceanodroma castro with only 1,500 pairs.
Important among the land birds is Berthelot's pipit Anthus berthelotti berthelotii, a subspecies identical to the one found in the Canary Islands.
In the 16th century the Selvagens became private property and were seen as a source of income for the inhabitants of Madeira. Until 1971, about 30 thousand young Cory's shearwaters were hunted every year, their eggs harvested and their feathers sold in England.
Although the Selvagens were acquired by the Regional Government of Madeira in 1971 in order to make a nature reserve, their isolation and the lack of surveillance allowed hunters and fishermen to disembark freely, which meant the hunting of Cory's shearwaters ended only in 1976, when its population was decimated through the massacre of several thousand adults and young birds, with only 64 birds surviving.
Today, these islands are under the jurisdiction of the Madeira Nature Park, and they are permanently guarded by a corps of nature conservation guards.
Although the vegetation of these islands is xerophytic and small, it is of great scientific interest, seeing that the highest percentage of endemisms per unit of surface area in all of Macaronesia is found here.
The vegetation of Selvagem Grande was altered through the introduction of domestic animals (rabbits, goats, and rats) and various cultivated plant species for industrial purposes. On the rocky cliffs, however, you can still find the only endemism exclusive to this island, the herbaceous stone crop Monanthes lowei.
Due to the isolation of Selvagem Pequena and Ilhéu de Fora, no one ever tried to colonise them or introduce herbivores. For this reason, 9 of the 10 endemisms exclusive to the sub-archipelago are found there, including the Sharp-leaved asparagus Asparagus nesiotes.
In terms of fauna, we find here a wall gecko species Tarentola boettgeri bischoffi endemic to Macaronesia and the Madeira wall lizard Teira duggesii, an endemism found throughout the archipelago of Madeira.
The importance of this reserve was recognised in 1992, when it received the European Diploma of Protected Areas, becoming the only Portuguese reserve to hold this distinction!
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