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About Madeira : Geography Last Updated: Jun 28, 2008 - 12:29:23 AM


Madeira's Nature Reserve
By Jorge Barbosa
Jun 6, 2008 - 10:51:13 PM


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The Freira, also known as Zino's Petrel or Madeira Petrel is also under the severe threat of extinction. These birds are to be found in the highest altitudes of the main island of Madeira. Illustration by Elisabethe Henriques
The Garajau Natural Reserve near Canišo

Madeira's nature reserve is managed alongside the other nature reserves, including the first and only marine reserve in Portugal: the Garajau Natural Reserve near Canišo. Other reserves include the recently declared nature reserve of the "Desertas" (1990) - a trio of 3 main islands with many jutting rocks about it. This area is very popular with the local sports fishermen (non-professional sports fishermen on day trips only). Tuna and Wahoo fishing being abundant during the right seasons. However, it is prohibited to venture over onto dry land on the deserted islands. That is beyond 10 metres from the shoreline.

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The Monk Seal continues to feature as one of the 10 most threatened animal species on the list of animals near extinction.


The "Ilhas Desertas" formerly owned by a British Family, the Hintons, were appropriated by the local Madeira government. The were then protected from human activity and the islands are now the slow, but still successful, breeding ground of the nearly extinct Monk Seal (Monachus monachus).  These seals were sent to near complete extinction by ruthless fishermen who slaughtered the seals to prevent them from attacking and consuming of the local catch.

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Legend of Map Above:

   1. A very rough idea of the extent of the Madeira Nature Park
   2. The Garajau Marine Nature Reserve
   3. The "Ilhas Desertas"
   4. The "Ilhas Selvagens"

The last and most southerly point of the Madeira Political Administration is the area known as the "Ilhas Selvagens". A group of very small islands, formerly owned by a wealthy family in Madeira, the Rocha Machado family (banking), were declared a nature sanctuary in 1971 when the property ceased to be in the possesion of the family and turned over to the government. It is currently manned by a few sentries that are relieved every two weeks. The islands are breeding grounds for Shearwaters.

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