The Ilha do Caju - APA (State Environmental Protection Area -1991) and Federal APA since 1996, located in the Delta of the Parnaíba River, municipality of Araioses-MA, about 50km from the city of Parnaíba, where a ecotourism, which emphasizes the need to integrate it with the fragility of local fauna and flora and native population. The Ilha do Caju ecotourism project was born out of the need to safeguard this paradise for its present rational use and for future generations. The only way to preserve and conserve this natural heritage would be to open it to the public through ecotourism, thus seeking its self-sustainability. Ecotourism marked the beginning of the sustainable development of Caju Island, which has been maintained in its primitive state since 1847.

The main characteristics of the project are the preservation of the ecosystems of Ilha do Caju, the improvement of the quality of life and the settlement of its inhabitants, the training of resources for ecotourism and the use of it as a vehicle for environmental education.

100% APA Federal.
75% APP - Permanent Preservation Area.
02% RPPN - Private Natural Heritage Reserve



Forests and other forms of natural vegetation are considered as permanent preservation:

a) around the lagoons, lakes;
b) in the sandbanks as dune fixers or manganese stabilizers; ...
And also those designed:
(a) to mitigate the erosion of land;
(b) to plant specimens of endangered fauna or flora.



The APAS are conservation units created to conserve:

- wildlife;
- natural resources;
- genetic banks; and
- preserving the quality of life of local people.

APAS involve areas with occupancy density, depending on the environmental zoning; and population participation to achieve their goals. They may be federal or state.

The fauna is varied, including armadillos, coyotes, maracajá cats, parrots, anteaters, xexus, toucans, yellowcalls alligators, raccoons, deer, foxes, woodpeckers, jacus, monkeys of various species, guarás, spoonbills , herons, jacus, mackerel, sea turtles (head turtle), porpoises, manatees (Projeto Peixe-Boi in Cajueiro da Praia - Piauí) and many others. After all, everyone in the Delta knows, that Ilha do Caju is the refuge of these animals, because it is the natural protection of their habitat. In addition to one of the only examples of peaceful coexistence between economic exploitation and the maintenance of natural heritage. It should be noted, however, that the success of this faunistic community is not only due to the prohibition of hunting, but mainly for the conservation of primitive ecosystems. Only birds have cataloged more than 100 species. Other non-native species have been carefully introduced - such as the monkeys of scent, guariba, and myco-bull - that are adapting uncomplicated to the environment.


Ecological studies

For those interested in scientific details, the following is a report from a research carried out in the Delta of Parnaíba in 1981 by the Universities of São Paulo and Federal Universities of Piauí and Ceará. Under the coordination of Valdemar Rodrigues, from the University of Piauí, the ecological studies also had the collaboration of the botanist Afrânio Gomes, from Ceará, and zoologist Luiz Dino Vizzoto, from the São Paulo State University of São José do Rio Preto.




The movement of the sand and the formation of new quartz clumps cause serious problems in the Piauían coast, such as destroyed houses, roads and underground plantations. Another great problem arises with the cultivation of pastures for the breeding of animals. The destruction of the soils is certain and it is illusory to think that the fixing and conservation of the dunes in these areas can solve the situation. The vegetation, in this case, is very important in soil conservation and even more so when it comes to extremely fragile soil, such as the sand of the dunes. It is worth remembering that land use according to your aptitude is fundamental so that it does not reappear in the future.

Photo: Dunas Canto do Areal - Carlos Secchin





In the southern part of the Island, there are mangroves of salt and brackish water that cover 35% of the area of ​​Ilha do Caju. The walks inside the mangroves and streams are made in canoes and small boats, with frequent use of oars so that the noise of motor does not amaze the rich fauna of the region. The four-eyed fish is the most commonly found. The main feature of it are the two large eyes popped out. The upper half is adapted to see out of water and the bottom half to see inside. There are still many guarás, punches, martim-fishermen, nail monkeys (who eat crabs), raccoons and snakes. The baiacus, which can swell up to look like soccer balls, are also mangrove dwellers as well as the crab-uçá. This species is much sought after by fishermen who catch the crabs still young to trade. Another point to note is the number of specimens collected per area. There are several layers of crab-uçá in the same place, which leads to a decrease in mass and consequent extinction. Mangroves are also threatened by rice plantations, cattle ranching and charcoal withdrawal. By decreasing the ecosystem, it happens the reduction of the food source of the crabs which leads to the evasion or death of the species.

BOX: The capture of the crab-uçá in the coast of Maranhão occurs in the months of November to March. In this period the reproduction of the species occurs and the crabs become more vulnerable. That is, fishing happens at the stage where it should at all costs be avoided. Other critical points show that in addition to the young specimens being taken, making reproduction difficult; mass capture still occurs in the same area. The danger of extinction arises mainly due to uncontrolled and predatory growth.



Photo: Palê Zuppani

They are deposits of sand accumulated by the fluvial or marine transport agents. The beaches represent bands of quartz grains, presenting a greater or lesser width, depending on the tide. These strips of sand extend throughout the Brazilian coast and harbor several plant species among them:

Rosemary of the Beach: very common plant that contributes to the fixation of dunes

Beach Parsley: it is always in the company of the Rosemary of the Beach and also has a great power to fix dunes, besides being medicinal;

Cipó Lead: is one of the most frequent parasites of the shrub and arboreal vegetation, in all the coastal region;

Guajeru: native fruit that could be improved as table fruit. It reaches a size of up to 10 meters;

Chanana: wild flower more abundant and characteristic of the region. It unfolds at 6 o'clock and closes regularly around 11 o'clock, hence also known as "eleven o'clock";

Silk Cotton: the hairs are the raw material for pillows and cushions;

Coqueiro-da-Praia, Oiti beach, Cajueiro and Mangabeira: are predominant species and of high economic value.

The beaches and restingas of the Brazilian Northeast also have a very rich fauna formed by shells, small crustaceans, beach flea, maria flour, sand tattle, among others.


Preliminary list of representatives of vertebrates from Ilha do Caju:

Mammalia class:
Order chiroptera

  • Noctilio leporinus leporinus Fisherman's bat
  • Artibeus jamaicensis White-winged Tipped Bat
  • Artibeus cinereus Small white wingtip bat
  • Desmodus rotundus rotundus Hematófago bat
Order primates
  • Cebus apella Macaco nail


Order edentata
  • Dasypus novencinctus Armadillo / Tatu-etê / Armadillo
  • Euphractus sexcinctus Tatu-peba


Rodentida Order
  • Dasyprocta aguti Cotia


Carnivore Order
  • Dusicyon (cerdocyon) thous azarae Fox
  • Procyon cancrivorus Racoon / Hand-skinned
  • Nasua nasua Coati
  • Felis pardalis Maracajá / Jaguatirica
  • jaguati


Order artiodactyla
  • azama sp. Deer


Class birds:

Order ardeiformes
  • Theristicus caudatus Curicaca
  • Eudocimus ruber Guará or Guará-piranga
  • Casmerodius albus Great white heron or Guiratinga
  • Egretta thula Small white garga
  • Bubulcus ibis Heron-toed heron / Heron egret
  • Butorides striatus Socozinho
  • Florida caerulea Gray heron / Brown heron
  • Hydranassa tricolor Heron
  • Jabiru mycteria Jaburu grande



Order anseriformes
  • Dendrocycna bicolor
  • Oxyura dominica Marrequinha


Order charadriiformes

  • Jacana spinosa jacana Jaçanã / Piaçosa
  • Vanellus chilensis Téo-téo / Quero-quero
  • Calidris pusilla Batuirinha


Order falconiformes
  • Coragyps atratus brasiliensis Common Vulture / Black-headed Vulture
  • Spizaetus ornatus Hawk apacanim
  • Buteo magnirostris nattereri Hawk-hawk-pinto
  • Polyborus plancus plancus Caracará / Carcará / Carancho
  • Herpetotheres cachinnans cachinnans Cava or Acavá or Macaguá


Order gallifortes
  • Penelope jacucaca Jacu


Order gruiformes
  • Aramides mangrove Saracura from the beach mangrove / Saracura
  • Aramides cajanea Saracura three-pots


Order columbiformes
  • Columba picazuro marginalis White-winged pigeon
  • Zenaida auriculata Avoante
  • Columbina picui Rolinha
  • Scardafella squamata squamata Fire-erased
  • Leptotila verreauxi approximans Juriti


Order cuculiformes
  • Piaya cayana Alma de gato
  • Crotophaga ani Anum preto
  • Guira guira Anum branco


Order caprimulgiformes
  • Nyctidromus albicollis Curiango


Order coraciiformes
  • Ceryle torquata Martim-pescador-grande


Order piciformes
  • Ramphastus tucanus Tucano


Order passeriformes
  • Furnarius leucopus João-de-barro
  • Cassicus cela Guache / Japuíra / Japi / Chechéu


Order psittaciformes
  • Pionopsitta barra bandi Curica


Class reptiles

Field Work - Roberta Biologist


Order chelonia
  • Caretta caretta (marinha) Tartaruga marinha grande
  • Chelonia mydas Tartaruga do mar
  • Eritmochelys imbricata Tartaruga de pente
  • Pseudemys d' orbignyi Tigre d' água / Jurará
  • Phrynops geoffroana tuberosa Cágado d' água


Order crocodylia
Biologists and Natives - Fieldwork
  • Caiman crocodilus crocodilus Alligator


Order squamata
  • Epicrates cenchria assisi Salamanta
  • Eunectes murinus Sucuri
  • Boa boa constrictor
  • Waglerophis merremi Boipeva
  • Phylodryas olfersii Green snake
  • Crotalus durissus cascavella Cascavel
  • Dromicus poecylogirus Mata ox
  • Hemidactylus mabouia Wall Gecko
  • Tropidurus torquatus Taraguira
  • Iguana iguana Chameleon


Class amphibia:

Order anura
  • Bufo paracnemis Cururu
  • Bufo granulosus Cururu small
  • Leptodactylus labyrinthicus Jia / pepper
  • Leptodactylus macrosternum Ra - chicken
  • Leptodactylus fuscus Frog - Whistler
  • Pleurodema diploristris
  • Hyla fuscovaria
  • Hyla rubincundula


List of representatives of invertebrates:

Order decapora
  • Uca mordax Chama-maré
  • Ucides cordatus Caranguejo-uçá
  • Callinectes bocourti
  • Metasesarma rubripes Marinheiro


Class chilopoda
  • Scolopendra viridicornis Lacraia


Filo mollusca
  • Biomphalaria glabrata
  • Pomacea sp.



The delta of the river Parnaíba is characterized by its large number of islands and islets, separated from each other by a labyrinth of river channels. Among them are the Big Island of Santa Isabel, in Piauí and the Island of the Canaries, Ilha do Caju and Ilha Grande do Paulino, in Maranhão.

The deltaic islands further away from the sea, surrounded by fresh water, are marginalized by Rhizophora mangle (red mangrove), occasionally associated with Montrichardia linifera (aninga), and Eichornia crassipes (baroneza or water-foot). In the interior of these islands the species of Avicennia tomentosa, Drepanocarpus lunatus, Copernicea prunifera and Astrocarium tucumoides are divided.

The islands that stand out in the middle of the mass of salt water, present on the face where the action of the sea waves is felt, a range of dunes, from which begin to appear pioneering species: ipomoea pes-capre, ipomoea asarifolia, indigofera microcarpa, cassia tetraphylla and some species of grasses and cyperaceae. The remainder of the contour belt and the innermost areas generally offer the same vegetative characteristics described in relation to the delta islands that populate fresh water.

Because it is the only one preserved, and because of its zeal, interest and understanding of its owners, the Ilha do Caju is the most representative of the natural resources of flora and fauna. observation and study of the ecosystems that occur in the delta.

Under the influence of the tide and the winds, dunes are formed on the face facing the ocean, where the first psamophilic and halophilic species appear, followed by others also psamophilic, but not so much halophilic. Behind the dunes, a larger vegetation develops progressively, accentuating the presence of a sub-deciduous shrub, with sparse arboreal specimens. The part of the contour devoid of dunes is occupied by mangrove swamps, which can occupy also wetlands and banks of streams in the interior of the island. It is also observed the presence of hydrophilic vegetation in small freshwater lakes. Its vegetation does not differ from that of the Northeastern coastal complex. The species characteristic of these types of vegetation include:


in the dunes: 
  • ipomoea pes - capre
  • ipomoea asarifolia
  • indigo-fera microcarpa
  • borreria veticilata
  • cassia tetraphylla
  • cassia ramosa
  • cassia flexuosa
  • gramíneas
  • ciperáceas


In the mangroves:


Gênero Espécie :: Common Name

  • Rhizophora mangle Red Mangrove
  • Avicennia tomentosa
  • Avicennia litida Mangue siriba
  • Laguncularia racemosa Mangue mango
  • Conocarpus erect Mangue / Canapistula de boi





In the woods:

Gênero Espécie

  • Mouriri guianensis Puçá
  • Anacardim microcarpum Cajuí
  • Dioclea grandiflora Mucunã
  • Caesalpinia bracteosa Catingueira
  • Pithecellobium multiflorum Muquém / Canafístula de boi
  • Cassia ramosa
  • Cassia rotundifolia
  • Cassia tetraphylla
  • Phaseolus peduncularis
  • Manilkara triflora Massaranduba
  • Zornia marajoara
  • Hymenaea stilbocarpa Jatobá - miúdo
  • Hymenaea stigonocarpa Jatobá de casca fina
  • Hymenaea courbaril Jatobá
  • Abrus precatorius Jiquiriti
  • Copaifera langsdorffii Pau d' óleo
  • Peltogyne confertiflora Pau roxo
  • Pithecollobium foliosun Jurema - branca
  • Basanacentha spinosa
  • Cereus jamacaru Mandacaru
  • Bursera leptophloeos Imburana - de - espinho
  • Psidium araça Araça
  • Cassia trichopoda
  • Tephrosia cinerea
  • Tabebuia serratifolia Pau d' arco amarelo / Pau d'arco roxo
  • Lonchocarpus sericeus

 *Encontrando-se também espécies não de imediato determinadas, pertencentes aos gêneros : entada, celtis, ouratea, cedrella, byrsonima, centrosema, ruellia, zornia, croton, polygala, connarus, guettarda, tocoyena, diodia, coccoloba, cyperus, myrtia, eugenia e maytenus.


In the ponds:
  • neptunia oleracea
  • neptunia plena
  • aeschynomene evenia
  • aeschynomene marginata
  • aeschynomene rudis
  • sesbania exasperta
  • salvinia curiculata
  • eichornia crassipes
  • lemna minor

and other species of the genus: nymphea, alisma, hidrocleis and drosera.