Last updated on February 15, 2023 by Wandering our World
The rugged and wild archipelago island country of Cape Verde sits in the Atlantic Ocean. Around 385 miles off the western coast of Africa and made up of nine inhabited islands and one uninhabited, this destination is becoming more and more popular, but it’s the wildlife in Cape Verde that really interest us!
The wildlife scene is diverse and no wonder too: depending on which island you are visiting, you may notice the terrains and temperature vary from place to place. Some are sandy and flat, while others are mountainous, ragged, and rocky.
All of which has created a very interesting wildlife scene, both in water and on land.
Not only are the animals in Cape Verde quite unique, there aren’t too many land predators too, so it’s safe for visiting and exploring outdoor areas!
Below are some of the most common, rare and dangerous animals in Cape Verde and where to find them. Good luck wildlife spotting!
- Common Animals In Cape Verde
- Rare Animals In Cape Verde
- Dangerous Animals In Cape Verde
8 Common Animals In Cape Verde To Try & Spot!
1. Humpback Whales
Humpback whales are the main species of whale found around the Cape Verde islands.
They have black bodies with white bellies and long narrow flippers which help distinguish them from other whale species.
Humpback whales are incredibly large, growing up to 18 meters long, and weighing 44 tons.
Since whales are mammals they must regulate their own body temperature, to help with this, whales are equipped with a thick layer of blubber to insulate against hypothermia. Although, in some cases, the blubber can cause them to overheat, so they have to find ways to cool themselves down as well.
Their name comes from the shape their back makes when diving into the water, humpback whales are particularly acrobatic and they frequently breach, jumping out of the water to expose their bellies. It is still speculated why they do this!
Humpback whales live along coastal waters and are quite curious, so sometimes they can be seen venturing relatively close to shore.
They often travel in small groups called pods that consist of 2-3 whales and can travel up to 500 kilometers, especially during their seasonal migrations, moving from high latitudes where they have feeding areas to low latitudes for breeding grounds.
Like most whales, humpbacks are quite noisy and during breeding season the male is often heard singing loudly to attract a female mate.
There are many whale watching opportunities in Cape Verde, and although it’s not guaranteed you’ll see one it’s definitely worth keeping an eye out when around the coastal areas or traveling between islands as this is one wildlife encounter you don’t want to miss.
2. Alexander’s Swift
The Alexander’s swift, known as the Cape Verde swift, is a small bird native to Cape Verde.
It is grey-brown in color and has a recognizably white throat patch and only grows to be around 13 cm in length. Their wingspan usually reaches around 45 centimeters, they have a shallowly forked tail, and they like to feed on insects.
They are only found on Cape Verde and forage in flocks along cliffs and shorelines. They also have quite recognizable calls, sounding almost like a high pitched screaming noise or buzzing.
3. Loggerhead Turtles
Cape Verde has the third largest loggerhead turtle nesting population in the world and it’s important site for the conservation of this turtle species. They nest between July and October and build their nests in sand dunes across the island.
Since turtle populations are declining, Cape Verde has put in protections, and as of 2017, it is illegal to hunt turtles.
Loggerhead turtles are the largest hard shell turtle, measuring 2.5-3.5 feet and weighing 200-350 pounds.
They can live up to 70 years old and they can be easily recognized as adults because their shells appear to be slightly heart-shaped. They are also unable to pull their head and flippers into their shell, unlike freshwater turtles.
Loggerhead turtles are also equipped with large heads and powerful jaws to help them chew their food since their diet consists of crustaceans, clams, and sea urchins. Although, they also have been seen eating plants and are considered an omnivorous species.
Interestingly enough, when seeing a loggerhead turtle up close many people think they look as if they’re crying. However, they have evolved to absorb saltwater through their eyes and then they can excrete the extra salt.
When exploring the beaches for wildlife in Cape Verde be cautious of potential nesting zones and admire the beauty of these turtles!
4. Cape Verde Swamp Warbler
The Cape Verde swamp warbler is a medium-sized warbler endemic to Cape Verde. It can be distinguished by its long bill, short wings, long tail, and greyish-brown color.
They are classified as a vulnerable species with their population slowly declining, although there aren’t currently any protections in place for these birds in Cape Verde.
Although they don’t have any obvious markings on them, they can be found in vegetated alleys with nests in reedbeds, and they typically avoid drier areas.
The swamp warbler is seen in Cape Verde year-round, as it is not a migratory bird.
When exploring Cape Verde, you may hear its distinct call, resembling that of liquid bubbling!
5. Green Monkey
Green monkeys are recognized by their golden-green fur, pale hands, and golden tail. They are rather social animals living in groups of between 20 and 50 monkeys with males being the dominant ones.
Green monkeys can live between 17 and 30 years old, weighing between 3.4-8 kg, 300-600 mm, and can be found inhabiting both moist and dry forests throughout Cape Verde.
Although social creatures, they don’t enjoy confrontations and will avoid them when possible. They are very vocal creatures, heard communicating with each other using a wide range of calls and since they are omnivorous eating both plants and animals, they can help disperse the seeds of the plants they’re eating.
These monkeys are quite cute and it’s possible you’ll spot them during your wildlife spotting on Cape Verde. Keep your distance and admire from afar!
Parrotfish are quite unique, omnivorous fish, growing 1-4 feet in length, and living to be about 7 years old.
They can be found in depths of 2-30 meters living in coastal waters around rocky coral reefs. These fish have quite an interesting diet as they eat algae ripped off the coral, which they then grind down with the teeth in their throat and the waste they produce is sand!
They spend around 90% of their day feeding and it’s estimated a parrotfish can produce two thousand pounds of sand a year. So remember to thank the local parrotfish of Cape Verde when sunbathing at the beach!
Interestingly, they can change their sex multiple times throughout their lifetime and their colors vary greatly. There are also certain species of parrotfish that can surround themselves in a cocoon at night before going to bed that is made from mucus that they secrete through a specific organ in their head. Some believe the cocoon potentially masks their scent from predators making them harder to find.
Parrotfish are beautiful and definitely stand out with their vibrant coloring. When swimming near coral reefs keep an eye out and hopefully, you will spot them swimming around!
7. Wild Goats
Wild goats are native to Cape Verde and are spotted all throughout the islands munching on plants.
They can be quite small in size but typically range between 100-120 pounds. They have coarse hair and can be seen with white, red, or black fur and they are often easily recognized by prominent straight horns on top of their head and their rectangular pupils.
Wild goats are herbivores and have four chambered stomachs, so they are able to eat many different plants that might otherwise be toxic to other animals.
Because of this, they can sometimes be considered an invasive species, and will remove the scrub, trees, and other native vegetation quite quickly.
8. Huntsman Spider
The Huntsman spider is a large brown spider with a flattened body measuring 2.2-2.8 cm in length, and a leg span measuring 7-12 centimeters. Uniquely, as they grow, the huntsman spider will shed its skin.
These spiders are usually nocturnal so they aren’t seen until evening, however, it is quite likely you’ll encounter one during your trip. As they’re so large they often give people quite a fright!
Unlike other spiders, these don’t build nests. Instead, they wait for their prey and ambush when it comes close.
As adult spiders, often the female is slightly larger than the males, especially in the abdomen. However, males often have longer legs than their female counterparts, they also have a distinguishable black longitude stripe on their bodies.
Typically, the huntsman spider is covered in short hair and has a pale area behind the eyes. During breeding, the female will make a flattened disk shaped egg sack that can hold up to 200 eggs. In Cape Verde, the huntsman spider is considered an invasive species.
They are quite social creatures and are virtually harmless to humans. They often eat mosquitoes and cockroaches, helping keep the populations at bay. So, although they might be quite intimidating to see in the wild, they don’t mean any harm.
5 Rare Animals In Cape Verde You’ll Be Lucky To See!
1. Razo Skylark
The razo skylark is a critically endangered bird found living in arid terrains and vegetated patches among dry stream beds throughout Cape Verde.
Due to the declining population, they have been officially protected under Cape Verdean law since 1955. The razo skylark is often recognized by its long beaks, which help to dig for prey in the sand.
The males often have longer beaks. They also feed near the rocks along the sea and their diet consists mainly of larvae, butterflies, moths, and grasshoppers.
The body of the razo skylark is covered in black and brown streaks with a white chest. Their size ranges between 14-18 centimeters. They also have lots of predators including giant geckos, ravens, and owls!
The razo skylark is only found on just Raso and Santa Luzia islands of Cape Verde, so keep an ear out for a chirping call and maybe you’ll spot one of these rare birds and wildlife wonders!
2. Grey Long-Eared Bat
As their name suggests, the grey long eared bat is a medium-sized bat with large ears and gray hair.
They can grow up to 5.8 centimeters in length with a wingspan ranging between 25 and 30 centimeters and they often weigh between 7 and 12 grams. Their lifespan is quite short compared to other species, only living between 5-9 years.
Bats are nocturnal, so they often don’t come out until the evenings to search for prey and they rely on echolocation when hunting.
They are most commonly seen between April and October hunting for moths, flies, or beetles in meadows and marshes, although they can be found sleeping during the day in grasslands or towns.
The grey long eared bat is most recognized by its large ears, which are the size of its body and when resting, they curl their ears back or tuck them under their wing!
Shearwaters are medium-large seabirds ranging from 35-65 centimeters in size with slim, dark-colored beaks.
They are found flying over the water and nesting in hollow cliffs and rocks offshore. It has also been observed that they have quite stiff, rapid wingbeats that they use to glide through the waves.
Shearwaters are around year-round in Cape Verde but the largest populations are seen from February through November.
Although, they have individual nests they are found living in colonies with hundreds of other birds. They prefer to stay coastal because they have a diet consisting mostly of small fish, squid, and other marine animals and are often seen hunting mid flight.
If you plan to visit Ilhéu Raso you’ll likely come across the Shearwater, as it’s where the largest nesting ground is located in Cape Verde.
4. Pea Crab
Pea crabs are incredibly small creatures. Females are often larger than males and only grow up to 2 centimeters across. In most cases, they live in or on other animals without depriving nourishment from the other creatures.
They are able to survive within these animals, often shellfish like oysters, because they feed off the plankton that gets brought into the shellfish.
However, in some cases, they will also eat the food brought in by the shellfish or if they start to eat the mucus that traps their prey it can become a detrimental relationship for the host.
It’s unlikely you’ll spot one of these crabs due to their sheer size and the fact that they are often living within other creatures. But, if you do happen to see them, you’ll notice the female and male pea crabs have quite different appearances.
The males are typically a bit smaller in size and are brown in color with a hard exoskeleton, whereas the females are a pinkish white and are often more translucent so some of their inner organs are exposed.
Keep your eyes open when eating- sometimes these pea crabs will be found in people’s oysters!
Angelfish are beautiful, colorful fish, often seen in shallow coastal reefs between 3-30 feet. They like swimming in and around rocky coral structures.
In the wild, they can grow up to 17 inches in length and are often recognized by their dark blue body with pale blue vertical lines. They also have a yellow tail, yellow lips and are very thin, appearing to be compressed laterally, but they have a round body and distinct triangle dorsal fin.
They are omnivorous, although their diet mainly consists of plankton, sponges, jellyfish, and soft coral.
Due to their stunning appearance, they will sometimes appear in trade markets however the prices for potential buyers are incredibly high!
Keep an eye out for these fish swimming through coral reefs while you’re swimming. Hopefully you get the chance to glimpse one of the most beautiful creatures on the Cape Verde wildlife scene!
3 Dangerous Animals In Cape Verde To Look Out For!
1. Portuguese Man-o-war
The Portuguese man-o-war is often referred to as a jellyfish but it’s not, technically it’s considered a siphonophore.
Growing to be 12 inches long and 5 inches wide, siphonophores are compromised of a colony of genetically identical clones or zooids. These clones are responsible for different tasks, such as floating, capturing prey, feeding, and reproduction.
They are most often seen in tropical waters and move using wind and ocean currents, which can help them travel quite far.
Although they aren’t too common in Cape Verde, there have been a few sightings, so it’s best to stay aware of the surroundings.
They have a float that resembles a balloon and it can be blue, violet, or pink in color and it is usually visible above the water line. This float is due to their gas filled bladder and above the surface, it resembles an 18th century armed sailing ship which is where it got its name.
The Portuguese man-o-war has incredibly long tentacles that can grow ten meters in length and extend up to thirty meters in length.
Their tentacles contain a nematocyst that stings and delivers a venom to whoever falls victim to it.
Though the stings are not deadly to humans unless you’re allergic, they can leave behind welts which are painful and can take weeks to heal. Even if you spot one washed up on the beach, it could possibly still sting you so it’s best to stay away and keep your distance!
2. Sea Urchins
Sea urchins are found in coastal waters nearby coral reefs and can be easily spotted by their long protruding spines which are meant to deter predators.
These spines are not only intimidating to look at but they also contain a poison that can create an uncomfortable rash.
It’s common for humans to accidentally step on one of these sea urchins. In some cases, after being stepped on the spines might even break off within the body and have to be taken out as soon as they’re out of the water. Their stings are not often fatal to humans as long as you clean the wound and ensure it doesn’t get infected.
Sea urchins can range in color but most commonly are found black in color. Their outer skeleton is made up of 10 connected plates and every other section has a small hole where the sea urchin can stick its foot through to help with feeding, registering light, and in some species locomotion.
Strangely, the urchin’s feet are operated by a water vascular system and when the sea urchins die, all the spines fall off.
When exploring the waters of Cape Verde watch where you step so you do not have to worry about getting stung by one of these urchins!
Centipedes are quite shy in nature, but when threatened can produce a painful bite.
They can grow to be quite long and have one pair of legs per segment of their body and they can have anywhere between 30 and 382 legs. Their size varies greatly as well, anywhere from a few millimeters to 30 centimeters in length.
Centipedes are predatory, carnivorous creatures and when they bite venom is released into their victim. Although they are not deadly to humans, their bites can still be quite painful and it’s best to avoid them when possible.
They are spotted in a wide variety of environments, often hiding under stones or branches and they are reddish-brown in color.
When picking things off the ground, don’t grasp the entire object until you’re sure there are no sneaky creatures hiding below!
The Wildlife Of Cape Verde: Our Final Thoughts
Cape Verde is beautiful, filled with unique landscapes, terrains and plenty of wildlife!
But while exploring keep your eyes and ears alert for some of the many creatures wandering around and exercise caution when exploring the beaches so you don’t accidentally stumble upon a man-of-war or step on a painful sea urchin!
Luckily, there aren’t too many animals on Cape Verde you have to worry about. Enjoy exploring and be kind to the animals you are lucky enough to encounter!