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Tall ship Oosterschelde arrives in Cabo Verde -the second port stop of the two-year planetary conservation mission DARWIN200

On 10th September 2023 historic tall ship Oosterschelde will dock in the Port of Mindelo in São Vicente, Cabo Verde for a week of conservation leadership programmes having sailed 850 nautical miles from Tenerife. It’s the second of 32 ports to be visited during DARWIN200, a two-year 40,000+ nautical mile voyage and conservation mission. The Darwin200 Global Voyage is retracing Charles Darwin’s famous journey on HMS Beagle and aims to change the world for the better by empowering 200 next-gen leaders of conservation.

Cabo Verde, also known as Cape Verde, is an archipelago island nation located off the northwest coast of Africa in the Atlantic Ocean. When Charles Darwin visited Cabo Verde in 1832 he was fascinated by the volcanic nature of the islands and the observations he made there contributed valuable data and insights that would later influence his groundbreaking theory of evolution.

Cabo Verde is the first of several Small Island Developing States the DARWIN200 Global Voyage will visit. These Islands often have precious and rare biodiversity systems because they tend to be small, remote locations and species are often highly specialised to suit their environments in Cabo Verde. Yet, like all Small Island Developing States, Cabo Verde is inherently vulnerable to increasing impacts resulting from climate change, soil erosion, pollution, floods, and other destructive phenomena be it irresponsible tourism, livestock grazing, overfishing or/and invasive species.

At the same time, a concerted conservation effort that began more than twenty years ago in Cabo Verde has much to celebrate for several species, in particular sea turtles, which have seen a ‘boom time’ in the number of nesting sites on the archipelago. Also the famous Raso Larck is recently saved from extinction by the intervention of committed NGOs.

“The efforts to safeguard wildlife and endemic ecosystems in Cape Verde is a fantastic example in a gathering effort by small island developing states around the world to protect and restore their unique and precious ecosystems for the benefit of both people and nature. Being at the frontline of climate impacts, island nations are very much leading by example in tackling global environmental crises. We can’t wait to introduce our international and multidisciplinary young Darwin Leaders to our expert local conservation partners in Cabo Verde. Together they’ll share experiences, skills and knowledge towards protecting biodiversity in all corners of our planet for future generations” says Stewart McPherson, Project Leader DARWIN200.

In each port of the DARWIN200 global voyage, small groups of ‘Darwin Leaders’, selected from around the world for their outstanding achievements in conservation, will join the tall ship for a week-long immersive conservation leadership training programme. Two hundred in total will take part over the two-year expedition – hence the project name. While in port, they set up home on board the ship and use the historic vessel as their laboratory and classroom, just as Charles Darwin did.

“We have sailed to Cape Verde almost every winter since 2008 making many friends there. We are happy to be back now for the Darwin200 Global Voyage and hope we can continue to contribute to the conservation of Cape Verde’s beautiful nature and give something back to the community.” Gerben Nab, Captain and Director of tall ship Oosterschelde

On September 11th 2023, a group of seven Darwin Leaders from Ghana, Netherlands, Brazil, Austria and the United Kingdom will join the tall ship in Cape Verde. Working alongside local conservation experts, each Darwin Leader will study a species of animal, plant or an ecosystem, assess its population status and how it has changed over the past two centuries, learn about conservation initiatives currently in place to protect it and develop their own ideas on how to better conserve the chosen species in the future. They’ll each produce a film, a photo essay and a report from their research. These will be available for the general public to see on the DARWIN200 website along with hundreds of free, online, nature and conservation-related educational resources as the ship becomes the “World’s Most Exciting Classroom”.

The intention is that each Darwin Leader will be empowered with new ideas, skills, and experience that will have a positive impact on the work they are already doing in their home countries and inspire their future careers in conservation.

In Cabo Verde the Darwin Leaders will be embedded with experts from conservation NGOs Biosfera, based on the island of São Vicente, and Terrimar based on the island of Santo Antão.

“The participation of Biosfera in the DARWIN200 program is for us a recognition of the conservation and environmental protection work that our NGO has been carrying out for several years, both in the Santa Luzia Island Reserve and in the White and Raso islets on São Vicente Island. Our national commitment to environmental conservation includes advocating for the preservation of coastal and marine species, their habitats, and striving to mobilise and engage Cape Verdean civil society in environmental protection. We hope that our partnership with DARWIN200 will allow us to strengthen youth engagement in conservation, further increase Biosfera’s visibility at the national and international levels.” Nadina Rodrigeus, Director of Biosfera

“For us, participation in the outstanding project DARWIN200 is a great opportunity to learn, share experiences, and improve the level of our work on Santo Antão Island. Still, it’s an important recognition of our efforts in conserving the environment in Santo Antão, and raising awareness among the population about the importance of protecting the environment. With this opportunity to work with the DARWIN200 team, our organisation has an incredible opportunity to increase our visibility in Santo Antão, Cabo Verde and in the international arena”. Director Silvana Rogues from Terrimar Ambiente e Desenvolvimento Sustentável, an NGO in Cabo Verde working for the protection of terrestrial and marine endangered species and their habitats in close collaboration with local communities.

The DARWIN200 mission is an official contributor to the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021-2030. In June 2023 Cabo Verde President H.E. José Maria Pereira Neves became the newest Patron of the Ocean Decade Alliance, amplifying the country’s role in global ocean action.

“We are delighted to work with our local partners Biosfera and Terrimar who are so deeply connected to the communities on the different islands. They show that the conservation work in the context of social economic development of Cabo Verde can go hand in hand. Our Darwin leaders will be challenged by intriguing topics in the different stages of conservation planning. The rediscovery of a presumed lost lizard, monitoring techniques for seabird colonies, developing new technologies for sharks and rays research, a plastic finding mission on a never researched remote beach, projects to both Green Turtles and Loggerheads and an expedition to the unique endemic fauna of Cabo Verde. This week is full of incredibly interesting projects.” Rolf Schreuder, Science Coordinator for DARWIN200

Meet the Darwin Leaders and their Conservation Projects: CAPE VERDE


Larissa Vidal Melo, 21, from Rio de Janeiro Brazil is an ecology student who will be working with local environmental experts to study sharks and rays around São Vicente island in Cabo Verde. There are a lot of species of sharks and rays habiting the archipelago, including critically endangered and endemic species, but little information about their ecology is known. She hopes to collect useful data to assist the development of needed conservation measures. Learn more about Larissa:



Merlijn Hulsenboom, 24, from The Netherlands is a biologist who will be working with local environmental experts of Biosfera on the remote and protected national park Ilhėu Raso to study Cape Verde’s marine birdlife and population of Brown Bobby. She will be assessing different monitoring methodologies.

Learn more about Merlijn:






Michael Binder, 25, from Austria is a landscape ecologist who will be working with Terrimar on the island of Santa Antão to study endemic plant life such as the highly endangered Carex Antonensis in the green valley of Ribeira de Paul, and drought adapted vegetation under threat in Topo de Coroa Natural Park.

Learn more about Michael:





Emmanual Kodolo, 26 from Ghana is a computing and business management university student with a great passion for environmental conservation. He will be working with experts of Biosfera on the nationale reserve island of Santa Luzia. He will look for plastic pollution on the never researched pristine coastline.


Learn more about Emmanual:





Alison Ashworth, 19, from the United Kingdom is a student environmental studies and will be working with Biosfera’s turtle experts into the population of Green Turtles on San Pedro beach and the effects of increasing tourism on the health and wellbeing of the animals. 

Learn more about Alison:





Gabriel Grellet, 23, from São Paulo, Brazil is a marine biology undergraduate with a particular interest in Franciscana dolphins’ feeding habits and behaviour. He will join the expedition to the Santa Luzia national protected area to find a presumed lost lizard.

Learn more about Gabriel:





Nina Marcovaldi, from Brazil is already a marine turtle conservationist icon from Brazil. Nina will be working with Terrimar and local communities of the island of Santa Antão to study Cape Verde’s Loggerheads conservation where fisher communities have transformed from consuming to protecting the Loggerheads.

Learn more about Nina:


For more information, to apply to be a Darwin Leader, join the ship for a sailing leg, or to get involved visit: 

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