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Fernando de Noronha: paradise of nature and wildlife

Fernando de Noronha (3°51’S, 32°25’W) is a volcanic island, that with some smaller islands, form an archipelago covering a total area of 18.4 sq. km. The archipelago is formed from the main island, Fernando de Noronha, and several other small islands, islets and rocks (Rata, do Meio, Sela Gineta, Rasa, São José, Cabeluda etc.).

The highest point of the island is Morro do Pico (323 m), this mountain is the tip of a large submarine volcanic complex that rises from the depths of the Atlantic Ocean for about 4,000 m. The origin of the volcano of Fernando de Noronha was estimated to go up between 1.8 and 12.3 million years ago.

The island was discovered August 10, 1503 by the florentine explorer Amerigo Vespucci. Vespucci landed at Fernando de Noronha and wrote the first description of the fauna of the island, he found no human who lived on the island, but he noticed the abundance of marine and terrestrial birds. The only other animals that he noted in his report were the lizards (Mabuya maculata), a type of “snake” (probably the worm-lizard (Amphisbaena Ridley), since there are no snakes on the island) and a very large mouse (the extinct “Noronhomys Vespucci).

Praia do Leão, Fernando de Noronha, Brazil. Author and Copyright Marco Ramerini

Praia do Leão, Fernando de Noronha, Brazil. Author Marco Ramerini

Fernando de Noronha has a population of 3,100 inhabitants (2009). Having been for years a place of deportation, tourism on the island is still young, the first tourists began to arrive around the year 1970. The island’s main attractions are the beaches, the ruins of the Portuguese forts and fauna. Currently the island is well served with daily flights from Recife and Natal. The total number of tourists on the island is restricted and visitors must pay a daily fee environment that increases with the length of stay.

In 2001, UNESCO included Fernando de Noronha on the list of World Heritage Site. The island is also a marine national park that covers most of the main island, excluding only the middle section of the north coast. The park also includes the majority of small islands of the archipelago.


Fernando de Noronha Archipelago support large populations of migratory and resident birds. The island is home to the largest concentration of tropical seabirds in the Western Atlantic. Among the migratory species found within the island group are Black Noddy (Anous minutus); Brown Noddy (Anous stolidus); Sooty Tern (Sterna fuscata); Fairy Tern or White Tern (Gygis alba); Red-footed Booby (Sula sula); Masked Booby (Sula dactylatra); Brown Booby (Sula leucogaster); Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificans), White-tailed Tropicbird (Phaethon lepturus) and Red-billed Tropicbird (Phaethon aethereus). A few land birds are found inland on Fernando de Noronha, including the endemics Noronha Vireo (Vireo gracilirostris) and Noronha Elaenia (Elaenia ridleyana). Other land birds are Cocoruta (Elainia spectabilis), Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) and Eared Dove (Zenaida auriculata).

Green Turtles (Chelonia mydas) reproduce on Fernando de Noronha, and Juvenile Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) use the islands for feeding and growth. The TAMAR-IBAMA Project has been monitoring areas of major concentrations of these turtles in the archipelago since 1987.

Praia do Meio, Fernando de Noronha, Brazil. Author and Copyright Marco Ramerini

Praia do Meio, Fernando de Noronha, Brazil. Author Marco Ramerini

Two species of lizards occur on the island, Mabuia (Euprepis atlanticus), which is endemic and Teju (Tupinambis merianae), which was introduced by humans in 1960s. to control rat populations, but prefers prey such as the eggs and the young of birds and turtles. There are also two endemic invertebrates, a Wasp (Polistes ridleyi), and a species of Gammarus, endemic in lake and streams; an endemic Worm Lizard, (Amphisbaena ridleyi), abundant on Morro do Pico; and an endemic genus of Dactyloscopidae fish found in a tide pool. There are no extant indigenous mammals on Fernando de Noronha. Baia de Golfinhos has an exceptional population of resident Dolphin (Stenella longirostris).

Fernando de Noronha also contains the only remaining sample of the Insular Atlantic Forest and the only oceanic mangrove in the South Atlantic region. At the time of Amerigo Vespucci’s visit in 1503, this island was believed to be almost entirely covered with forest. Although only patches of secondary forest remain today, they provide critically important habitat for the endemic fauna and flora of the archipelago and so deserve full protection. In all over 400 plant species have been recorded, including 3 endemic species: the gameleira Ficus noronhae, the mulungo Erythina velutina and the burra leiteira Apium escleratium. The island is now largely dominated by shrubby and grassy vegetation, with a few trees, principally represented by the Nyctaginaceae, Bignoniaceae, Anacardiaceae, Rubiaceae and Euphorbiaceae.


Vila dos Remédios is the old village of Fernando de Noronha it was built, in XVIII century, over the Praia do Cachorro where the ships sheltered end near the source of water of Bica do Cachorro. The village was divided in two unities (pátios), in the superior were the administrative buildings in the other was the church and the religious buildings. All the road, also that connecting to the forts and batteries along the coast of the island, were paved with stone. From 1770s., the first prisoners were sent to the island, the island was used as both a defensive outpost and a prison island untill the early 20th century.

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