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Europa Island (French: Île Europa) is a 28 km² low-lying tropical atoll in the Mozambique Channel, about a third of the way from southern Madagascar to southern Mozambique. The island has been a possession of France since 1897, but is also claimed by Madagascar. The island, garrisoned by a detachment from Réunion, has a weather station and is visited by scientists. Though uninhabited, it is part of the "Scattered Islands" of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands administrative region. Europa Island was the setting of a 1968 episode of "The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau", partly focusing on the breeding habits of the green sea turtle.
Europa is 6 km in diameter, with a maximum altitude of 6 metres, and has 22.2 kilometres of coastline. It is surrounded by coral beaches and a fringing reef and encloses a mangrove lagoon of around 9 km² and open to the sea on one side. There are no ports or harbours but anchorage is possible offshore. Its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), contiguous with that of Bassas da India, is 127,300 km². The airstrip is 1,500 metres long.
Climate is affected by the Agulhas Current with water temperatures usually above 30°C, southeast trade winds during the (austral) winter and occasional cyclones.
The island is a nature reserve. Its vegetation consists of dry forest, scrub, euphorbia, the mangrove swamp, and the remains of a sisal plantation. It is one of the world's largest nesting sites for green sea turtles. It is also home to goats introduced by settlers in the late 18th century.
The island has been identified as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International because it supports a large and diverse population of breeding seabirds and other waterbirds. It is the only known breeding site outside Aldabra and Madagascar for Malagasy Pond Herons. Seabirds include the second largest colony in the western Indian Ocean of Great Frigatebirds (with up to 1100 pairs), Audubon's Shearwaters (up to 100 pairs, probably of the subspecies Puffinus lherminieri bailloni previously considered endemic to the Mascarene Islands), Dimorphic Egrets and Caspian Terns. The island is home to an endemic subspecies of White-tailed Tropicbird (Phaethon lepturus europae). There are three species of landbirds present, one of which is an endemic subspecies of the Malagasy White-eye (Zosterops maderaspatanus voeltzkowi).
While the island has probably been sighted by navigators since at least the 16th century, it takes its name from the British ship Europa, which visited it in December 1774. Ruins and graves on Europa island attest to several attempts at settlement from the 1860s to the 1920s. For example, the French Rosiers family moved to the island in 1860, but subsequently abandoned it.
- BirdLife International. (2012). Important Bird Areas factsheet: Europa. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 2012-01-07.
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