This activity is currently under-exploited. The country does not yet offer the facilities (infrastructures/services) required for this sector to expand.
The main players on the field would be the Tourist and Hotel Board, travel agencies, national entrepreneurs, foreign partners and investors, NGOs and local communities. They should make the best of the positive evolution experienced by the country over the last years.
One priority that would add value to biodiversity in São Tomé and Príncipe is the structuring and implementation of sustainable eco-tourism.
There is a wealth of land and marine fauna to attract tourists. Sports fishing can be exploited by the private sector.
Besides fauna and flora, abiotic components of Santomean ecosystems have great potential for eco-tourism.
Several tourist circuits have been created within Obô Park to develop leisure activities in a natural context.
There are waterfalls (São Nicolau, Bombaim), rivers and streams (Ió Grande, Cantador, Abade), old coffee and cocoa farms (Monte Café, Santa Margarida, Agostinho Neto), volcanic landscapes (Cão Grande, Amélia Lagoon), and more. There are also many sandy beaches like Jalé, Piscina, Governador, and Praia Banana, among others.
Santomean hospitality, culture and folklore, as well as the cuisine, provide wealth to this sector, which must abide by the principles of environment protection and cultural identity.
3.7. Ethnocultural and magic use
Santomean biodiversity is also employed by ancestral folk belief. There are incantations proffered here and there (waterfalls, hills, crossroads) as well as ritual dances to heal or prevent diseases, or even send messages. Emanations from ripe Borassus aethiopum fruit, as well as burnt Croton stelellifer bark, ward off the evil eye and evil spirits; crosses made from Zantoxyllum gilletii, placed carefully throughout one’s home, protect you against witches.
As for animals, witch-doctors and healers possess considerable lore about their connection with the supernatural. Relevant animals are: The owl (Tito alba thomensis) and the kitolí (Otus hartlaubi), night birds whose cries chill the superstitious; when black cats or snakes show up at certain times of day, an enemy must be out to get you.
Associating certain persons with plants or animals is a compliment. When you call someone a lagaia, you’re saying they’re clever and discreet; turtles are people with ulterior motives, generally bad; “Flóli canido” is a constant no-show; “rosa bilança” for pretty girls; “safú” is for beautiful women with fiery tempers.
3.8. Ornamental use
Uses of biodiversity on São Tomé and Príncipe vary greatly. Preferred ornamental species are begónias (Begonia sp.), gingers (Renealmia grandiflora) and giant ferns (Cyathea sp.). Also favored are the orchids, small and discreet, that blossom in humid mountainous environments.
As shown on table 7, below, many ornamental plants were brought in from other regions. Given climate and soil fertility, many have become naturalized and frequent. These are: Anthuriums (Anthurium sp.), heliconias (Heliconia sp.), torch gingers (Nicolaia elatior), and more.
Animals, although protected by the CITES convention, are so highly valued that they are sold on the black market. Foremost would be: parrots (Psittacus erithacus), parakeets (Agapornis pullarius), mona monkeys (Cercopithecus mona) and rare butterflies.
As far as ornamental plants and flowers go, the country is showing signs of development, exporting these to European markets. This is due to the enterprising spirit of a few private companies that promote the country’s image abroad.
CHAPTER III – CURRENT STATE OF BIODIVERSITY
In spite of great difficulties in quantifying the deterioration of biological diversity, it is understood that maintaining diversity on São Tomé and Príncipe is a high priority. The country has undergone massive, rapid change, and many have turned to quick profits. Poverty has been bandied about as an excuse for illegal activity and this has led to the dissemination of especially productive species to the detriment of those traditionally domesticated or cultivated. Scarce interest in the store of knowledge, activities and traditions upheld by traditional farmers, and an agricultural policy influenced by the consequences of African swine fever and other zoonoses, have brought about a rather delicate situation.
Lack of biological technology and resources to analyze ongoing transformations and act accordingly to minimize damage has also been a factor. Demographic increase has heightened the pressure on natural resources and the damage done to ecosystems may not be reversible.
The forestry sector is struggling with institutional, legal and logistic constraints when it comes to sustainable management of wood resources. Since the inception of the Forestry Board in 1993, this public body has not been allocated any investment funds by the Government. The Law on forestry, in force since 2001, creates a situation where most wood extraction and transformation is made illegally. The districts of Mé Zochi, Cantagalo and Lobata lead the pack when it comes to illegal exploitation of wood products and derivatives. There is no official chart to regulate plant-soil occupation.
To make up for the lack of wood, it is of the essence that replanting take place with rapid-growth species.
The agro-sylvan-pastoral landscape is deteriorating as a result of soil erosion, deregulated exploitation of forests, reduced fallow periods, and cultivation on vulnerable soil that is especially sensitive to erosion and loss of fertility.
4.1 Main dangers to diversity of fauna in São Tomé and Príncipe
Scheme 6: Diagrama das principais ameaças à biodiversidade animal de S. Tomé e Príncipe
The main threats to biodiversity in the country are present throughout several ecosystems and habitats and are all anthropic in origin. They can be grouped into four categories:
Chemical pollution with toxic waste and residues
Over-exploitation of natural resources
Introduction of animal and plant species.
The figure below lists major threats to the ecosystems studied, direct and indirect causes for them, and their effects on biodiversity: