As small volcanic islands, the the Comoros are not home to a huge number of different species – the islands formed very recently in geological terms, so there hasn’t been a lot of time for organisms to colonise – and they don’t have native land mammals or amphibians as these disperse to isolated islands less easily. But what the islands can boast about are endemic species.
The Comoro Islands form part of the Madagascar hotspot of biodiversity which includes other islands in the Western Indian Ocean. This area is considered one of the five ‘hottest hotspots’ globally because of the extremely high number of species found here and nowhere else on the planet. The animals and plants which made it to the islands were then cut off from the rest of their kind, and many evolved independently into entirely new species. However, their evolution in isolation also makes them extremely vulnerable to changes to their environment and new threats.
Fifteen endemic bird species are found on the three islands of the Union of the Comoros, some restricted to only one of the islands. Striking examples are the scops owls – a different species evolved on each island: the Karthala scops owl, the Mohéli scops owl and the Anjouan scops owl, which are now classed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN’s red list of endangered species.
There are a variety of fruit bat species on the Indian Ocean islands, but the biggest is Livingstone’s fruit bat which evolved in the Comoros and is found only on Anjouan and Mohéli. With a wingspan of up to 1.4 metres, it is one of the largest bats in the world, and a flagship species for conservation in the Comoros.