Fatbirder - linking birders worldwide... Wildlife Travellers see our sister site: WAND

Zino's Petrel Threat

Madeira Radar Station

After many years of uncertainty and inaction, the Portuguese Government has finally started building a military radar on top of Pico do Areeiro, one of Madeira’s most popular tourist destinations and the only home of Zino’s Petrel Pterodroma madeira, a rare endemic seabird.

The Pico do Areeiro lies within a Natura 2000 site designated as a Special Protection Area, and therefore has the highest level of protection under European Union law.

“It is the only known breeding site in the world of Zino's Petrel, a globally Endangered species whose total population of 65-80 pairs makes it the rarest seabird in Europe and one of the rarest birds in the world”, said Dr Ian Burfield – European Research and Database Manager at BirdLife International.

Since as long ago as 2000, SPEA (BirdLife in Portugal) and BirdLife International have opposed the construction of this radar station at Pico do Areeiro, which is an area of extreme importance for rare high-altitude flora, as well as Zino’s Petrel. Concerned that its construction and operation could have a detrimental impact on Zino's Petrel, as well as the unique landscape, SPEA and BirdLife have repeatedly requested the plans to be shelved and EU nature legislation respected.

“Unfortunately, none of the valid arguments presented proved sufficient to convince the Madeiran and Portuguese authorities, who have now gone ahead, arguing that building the radar is a matter of national security”, added Dr Burfield. Construction began in November 2009. The summit hostel, which used to serve as a must-stop tourist destination where people could admire the incredible mountain range that protects Zino’s Petrel, has already been removed to make way for the radar.

“However, the project must follow all of the mitigation and compensation measures indicated in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), such as avoiding any construction work during the breeding season of Zino’s Petrel between March and October”, warned Dr Burfield.

“SPEA is following progress very closely, and verifying that every precaution mentioned in the EIA is adhered to”, said Iván Ramirez – BirdLife’s European Marine Coordinator. “SPEA-Madeira staff are visiting the site regularly and will immediately report any anomalies to the Ministry of Defence and the University of Aveiro, which produced the EIA and is responsible for the follow-up and monitoring of the project”.

Through SPEA, BirdLife is also keeping a very close eye on the situation, as any negative impacts on the species could rapidly move it closer to extinction.

4th July 2014