Comoros Islands | WWF

Comoros Islands

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Turtle Ponte Itsamia
© WWF / Parc Marin de Moheli
The Comoros archipelago consists of four main islands aligned along a northwest-southeast axis at the north end of the Mozambique Channel, between Mozambique and the island of Madagascar. Still widely known by their French names, the islands officially have been called by their Swahili names by the Comorian government. They are Njazidja (Grande Comore), Mwali (Mohéli), Nzwani (Anjouan), and Mahoré (Mayotte).

The islands have a total land area of 2,236 square kilometers (including Mahoré), and claim territorial waters of 320 square kilometers. Le Karthala (2316 m) on Grande Comore is an active volcano.

The archipelago is notable for its diverse culture and history, as a nation formed at the crossroads of many civilizations. Though in the contested island of Mayotte the sole official language is French, the "Union of the Comoros" has three official languages: Comorian (Shikomor), Arabic and French.

Flora and fauna

Comorian waters are the habitat of the coelacanth, a rare fish with limblike fins and a cartilaginous skeleton, the fossil remains of which date as far back as 400 million years and which was once thought to have become extinct about 70 million years ago. A live specimen was caught in 1938 off southern Africa; other coelacanths have since been found in the vicinity of the Comoros Islands.

Several mammals are unique to the islands themselves. The Macao, a lemur found only on Mahoré, is protected by French law and by local tradition. Another, Livingstone's fruit bat, although plentiful when discovered by explorer David Livingstone in 1863, has been reduced to a population of about 120, entirely on Nzwani. The world's largest bat, the jet-black Livingstone fruit bat has a wingspan of nearly two meters. A British preservation group sent an expedition to Comoros in 1992 to bring some of the bats to Britain to establish a breeding population.

22 species of bird are unique to the archipelago and 17 of these are restricted to the Union of the Comoros. These include the Karthala Scops-owl, Anjouan Scops-owl and Humblot's Flycatcher.