Ilha do Fogo, a 42-hectare island off the coast of Mozambique, has fully transitioned to 100% renewable energy.
The island is a safe haven for one of the world’s most vulnerable marine species… sea turtles. In order to protect Ilha do Fogo’s habitat, for all wildlife, the island’s directors vowed to keep the island as low-impact on the environment as possible.
Many islands are powered almost entirely by fossil fuels, however, the environmental impact of producing this type of energy went against everything the Fire Island Conservation team is working towards.
The NPO’s chief of operations, Jan van Deventer, states “Running Ilha do Fogo purely on solar energy just makes sense. We had already developed a number of solar stills to harvest fresh water on the island, so the transition to run all our energy needs on solar power was the logical next step.”
The 120KW solar plant was installed on Ilha do Fogo in November 2022. Although the island has accommodation for guests in the manner of ‘floating’ ensuite tents, it has only recently opened up to eco-tourism. With the solar system currently operating at a fairly low usage level, it is generating an average of 6000 kWh per month. This translates to a reduction of around 70,000 kg of CO2 annually. However, it can easily generate 13,000 kWh per month to accommodate our guests on the island, which equates to an annual reduction of 156,000 kg of CO2.
The project’s conservation manager, Esther Jacobs, states “The island is truly a biodiversity hotspot and we aim to do everything in our power to protect its marine and terrestrial populations. Running on diesel-power energy goes against our ethics. Not only would this type of energy create a huge carbon footprint just in transporting fuel to the island, but would also emit pollutants, including nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide, and particulate matter, which can be harmful to the wildlife.”
Even the accommodation was carefully considered to minimise any environmental impact. “There are 10 tented suites sitting atop platforms that were built to ensure the existing ecosystems and vegetation stayed intact,” says Jan. “With each tent sleeping two people, we could feasibly have 20 guests staying at any given time. However, we want to keep guest capacity to a maximum of 12, ensuring our impact remains at a minimum.”
Ilha do Fogo accommodation is part of Unfound Africa’s portfolio of unparalleled destinations and undiscovered locations. Each offering in the collection has been selected for uniqueness, inspiring guests to protect their biodiversity and culture. A percentage of the proceeds from all Unfound Africa bookings are donated to Fire Island Conservation projects.
You can read more about Fire Island Conservation on their website: www.fireislandconservation.com
The life of a Great White Shark
The great white shark, known scientifically as Carcharodon carcharias, embodies the apex predator of the ocean. This majestic creature’s life is a testament to survival, adaptability, and the intricate balance of the marine ecosystem.
Born in the waters off coastal regions, a great white shark begins its life as a pup within the safety of nurseries, typically found in warm, shallow waters. The pups, measuring around 5 feet in length at birth, are immediately equipped with an innate instinct for survival.
As they grow, great whites embark on a journey, venturing into deeper and cooler waters, often covering vast distances across the ocean. These apex predators are perfectly adapted hunters, relying on their impressive senses to detect prey. Their acute sense of smell, aided by specialized sensory organs known as ampullae of Lorenzini, helps detect the faintest traces of blood in the water from several miles away.
Feeding primarily on seals, sea lions, and other marine mammals, great whites are known for their powerful jaws lined with rows of razor-sharp teeth. Their hunting techniques often involve stealth, utilizing their streamlined bodies to approach prey from below and striking with incredible speed and force.
Despite their fearsome reputation, great whites play a crucial role in maintaining the health of marine ecosystems. As top predators, they help regulate the population of prey species, preventing overpopulation that could disrupt the balance of the food chain.
Reproduction among great white sharks is a slow and careful process. Females reach sexual maturity between 12 and 18 years of age, while males mature earlier, around 9 to 10 years old. Mating occurs through complex courtship rituals, with females giving birth to a small number of live pups after a gestation period of about 12 to 18 months.
However, the life of a great white shark is not without challenges. Human activities, including overfishing, pollution, and habitat destruction, pose significant threats to their population. Additionally, despite their formidable presence, great whites are vulnerable and face dangers from entanglement in fishing gear and accidental bycatch.
Despite these challenges, great white sharks continue to inspire awe and fascination among scientists and nature enthusiasts. Their presence in the ocean serves as a reminder of the delicate balance and interconnectedness of marine life, emphasizing the need for conservation efforts to protect these magnificent creatures for future generations to admire and study.
Want to learn more about sharks? Visit The Shark Trust website: www.sharktrust.org
Book Review: Sea Mammals
This is a book packed with information about some of the most iconic and charismatic marine species. I have a particular soft spot for the pinnipeds, seals and sea lions, due to some incredible diving encounters over the years. So these were the pages I first turned to.
Once picked up this book is hard to put down. Polar Bears, Narwhal, Sea Otters, manatees, whales and dolphins adorn the pages with beautiful photographs and illustrations. Each turn of the page lures you in to discover more about a species you love, one you want to learn more about, some you have never heard of and even includes the details of fascinating animals that are sadly now extinct.
I think what I love most about this book is how it is organised. Rather than simply lump the animals into taxonomic groupings, they are put into chapters that tell you a story about them. Whether it is the story of their evolution, how they were discovered, their biology, behaviour or need for conservation. Once you have decided on an animal to delve deeper into, each species has its own story, as well as key information about size, diet, distribution, habitat and conservation status.
There is plenty to enjoy in this delightful book. Plenty to learn too. As the cold dark nights draw in, I can see myself delving into this book time and time again. This is a perfect gift for anyone that loves the ocean and its inhabitants. Or just treat yourself.
What the publisher says:
From the gregarious sea otter and playful dolphins to the sociable narwhal and iconic polar bear, sea mammals are a large, diverse, and increasingly precious group. In this book, Annalisa Berta, a leading expert on sea mammals and their evolution, presents an engaging and richly illustrated introduction to past and present species of these remarkable creatures, from the blue whale and the northern fur seal to the extinct giant sperm whale, aquatic sloth, and walking sea cow.
The book features more than 50 individual species profiles, themed chapters, stunning photographs, and specially commissioned paleo-illustrations of extinct species. It presents detailed accounts of these mammals’ evolutionary path, anatomy, behavior, habitats, and conservation. And because these are key species that complete many food chains and have the widest influence of all sea life, the book also offers insights into a broad variety of marine worlds today and in the future.
About the Author:
Annalisa Berta is professor emerita of biology at San Diego State University. A specialist in the anatomy and evolutionary biology of marine mammals, especially baleen whales, she formally described a skeleton of the early pinniped Enaliarctos. She is the author of Return to the Sea: The Life and Evolutionary Times of Marine Mammals and the editor of the award-winning Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises: A Natural History and Species Guide.
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Published: 26th September, 2023
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