Lanzarote nature & wildlife

Lanzarote nature & wildlife


Birds, bottlenose dolphins & tiny, blind crabs

The extraordinary landscapes of Lanzarote, which range from the lunar-style lava flows or malpais (the "badlands") of Timanfaya National Park, to the sandy scrub of the Monumento Natural de los Ajaches and the islands of the Chinijo Archipelago, provide many different habitats and ecosystems for endemic species of flora and fauna.
With the coastline of Morocco only 100km to the east, Lanzarote is a regular port of call for many birds migrating to breeding grounds in the north, or returning to their southern winter locations in Africa. Waders and small passerines use the wetlands of the Al Janubio salt pans, or the abandoned saltworks beneath the high cliffs of Famara, to rest and feed on their long journeys.
Four of the five islands of the Chinijo Archipelago are uninhabited and form an avian paradise for both resident and migratory bird species. Shearwater, once hunted by islanders for their fatty meat, now nest safely in their thousands on the high cliffs of the island of Alegranza. Here, too, resident pairs of Eleanora’s falcon and osprey hunt the clear waters and steep cliffs. Sea eagles are often seen from the Mirador del Rio which overlooks the island of La Graciosa.
On Lanzarote itself, the houbara bustard regularly nests in the sandy scrubland of the Monumento Natural de Los Ajaches– the oldest volcanic formation in the Canary Islands. Just three or four pairs of barbary falcons are resident in Timanfaya National Park, breeding in the craters of the Montañas del Fuego and preying on rabbits, partridge and other small birds and animals which live in the harsh, volcanic terrain.
The marine reserve around the Chinijo Archipelago is one of the largest in Spanish waters. Comprising the five islands of Alegranza, Montaña Clara, La Graciosa, Roque del Oeste and Roque del Este, the reserve covers 90 sq km, which teem with fish. Many species of sea bird live and breed here.
Bottlenose dolphins and pilot whales are regularly seen here, and only recently a pod of orcas in pursuit of their favourite prey, blue fin tuna, were sighted close to the archipelago.
Of the five Chinijo islands, only La Graciosa is inhabited. As access to other islands is either restricted or totally prohibited, the archipelago is an ideal breeding place for sea birds and other avian species. Boat trips to visit the waters and caves of the islands depart from the port of Orzola in northern Lanzarote.

One of the most unusual, and perhaps the smallest, of the remarkable fauna of Lanzarote is the tiny, blind, white crab found in the waters of the lava tube at the Jameos del Agua.
Barely 2cm long, the albino Munidopsis Polymorpha resembles a miniature lobster complete with claws. It has existed in total darkness for so long that it has no eyes and forages for food in the clear water of the cave. These crabs are unique to Lanzarote.
Now one of Manrique’s Centres of Art Culture and Tourism, visitors to the Jameos del Agua can walk through the huge lava tunnel where these tiny crabs can clearly be seen feeding on the bottom of the natural rock pools.

Timanfaya National Park is one of Lanzarote’s major attractions. Volcanic eruptions took place here barely three centuries ago, and even today, rocks close to the surface are heated to 400 degrees centigrade by magma chambers deep beneath the island. The visitors' centre in Mancha Blanca has a series of excellent displays and videos about the volcanic eruptions and their extraordinary impact on Lanzarote’s history and its natural landscapes.
Photo credits: [Top box: Samu] [Eleonora's Falcon: Creative commons] [Houbara Bustard: Chmee2] [Dolphins: Francesco Crippa] [Crab: Martyn M ] [Helpdesk: Tatyana Vyc]
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