Flora and fauna of the Chinijo Archipelago

Flora and fauna of the Chinijo Archipelago

Do you know where the largest marine reserve in Europe is? That’s right, it’s in Spain, only three hours away by plane from the mainland and very close to Africa. If you don’t already know, it’s worth pointing out that our Canary archipelago is home to seven UNESCO biosphere reserves and, what’s more, the largest marine reserve in Europe is to be found on the island of Lanzarote. The Chinijo Archipelago is situated in the northern part of the Island of Lanzarote and belongs to the municipality of Teguise, the largest on the island. Its name comes from the informal and affectionate way Canary Islanders call someone small or of short stature: chinijo.

Which islands make up the "archipiélago chinijo"?

The archipelago is formed of five islands and islets:

La Graciosa

This is the largest of the Chinijo Archipelago islands and is the only one that is currently inhabited. According to the 2020 census, 700 people live on the island of La Graciosa, in one of the two small communities of Caleta del Sebo and Pedro Barba. It lies to the north of Lanzarote and is separated from it by a sea strait called ‘El Río’.


This is second island in terms of size and the most northernmost of all of them. It is uninhabited like the rest of the islets of this archipelago. The island is owned by a local Lanzarote family.

Montaña Clara

An interesting fact about this island is that it is for sale. It owes its name to the light, bright colours of its volcanic cone.

Roque del Este

In the shape of an upside-down L, this small islet is situated in the most easterly part of the Chinijo Archipelago Together with the Roque del Oeste, it forms the Los Islotes Nature Reserve.

Roque del Oeste

Also known as ‘Roque del Infierno’ (Hell’s Rock).

The Chinijo Archipelago, a protected area

The actual Chinijo Archipelago itself isn’t protected, but the natural park located on it is and has been since 1986. This area of interest and importance from an environmental perspective, as well as the rest of the islands and islets, includes several zones on the island of Lanzarote, such as the Riscos de Famara cliffs and the La Corona and Malpaís volcanoes.

An important space for birds

Apart from being the largest marine reserve in Europe, the Chinijo Archipelago is hugely important as it is home to a great number of species of flora y fauna that are native and endemic to the Canaries. It is a perfect nesting site for many birds, mainly due to its isolation. It is also of key significance to migratory birds.

What species of flora and fauna can be found on the Chinijo Archipelago?

On land:

Bupleurum handiense

Also known as ‘Anís de Jandía’. It is currently in danger of extinction.

Caralluma burchardi

Its common name varies: ‘cuernúa’, ‘colmillo de perro’ and ‘piterilla’ (depending on the zone in the Canary Islands).

Euphorbia balsamifera

This is one of the floral symbols of Lanzarote, as recognised by the Government of the Canary Islands. It is commonly known as ‘sweet tabaiba’ and is a type of shrub that grows throughout the zone (including the Island of Lanzarote).

At sea:

Alga Codium

This is the most common seaweed and can usually be found on all beaches around Spain. It grows in the shape of a tree or broccoli.

What species of fauna can be found on the Chinijo Archipelago?

On land

Cryptella famarae

This species is endemic to the Canary Islands and is very similar to what are traditionally referred to as ‘slugs’.

Tarentola angustimentalis

In this zone, it is referred to as a ‘perenquén majorero’, and is a small, light-coloured gecko that feeds on insects.

Gallotia atlantica

The Atlantic lizard can also be found on other archipelagos such as Madeira and The Azores. It is larger than the ‘perenquén’ (approximately 10 cm) and it feeds on insects and small rodents.

Chalcides simonyi

This species of skink, which in 2014 gave birth to young in captivity, inhabits enclaves with little-disturbed thermophilic forest and shrubland.

Pandion haliaetus

The osprey, whose species is seriously threatened, inhabits rocky coastal zones and usually lives for around 20-25 years.

Falco pelegrinoides

This is the smallest of common peregrine falcons and usually breeds on all the islands of the Canaries, but primarily on the Chinijo Archipelago.

Chlamydotis undulata

The Canarian houbara is the symbol of the island of Fuerteventura, just as the blind crab and sweet tabaiba are for Lanzarote.

Oceanodroma castro

Interestingly, this dark-coloured bird with a white strip on its tail only lays one single egg per breeding attempt.

Crocidura canariensis

It is very difficult to see the Canarian shrew owing to its timid nature, but it inhabits the Chinijo Archipelago, especially Montaña Clara.

At sea:


The common limpet is endemic to the seas of Western Europe, meaning they can be found in the Canary Islands and also in Galicia and Portugal.


The grouper, with its characteristic pronounced lower jaw, is highly-appreciated in gastronomy. It is a solitary fish and quite fascinating, as it is a hermaphrodite (it changes its sex many times throughout its life).


Although it is most commonly-fished in zones of the Mediterranean, it can also be found along the coastlines of the Canary Islands, where the Mediterranean lobster also lives.


The scientific name for starfish is most interesting – ‘Asteroidea’, meaning ‘star-like’. Being such a commonly-found sea creature, they are often killed owing to our human curiosity. Many bathers lift them out of the water when they see them (especially when they live near the coast). Because their respiration and toxin filtration systems are so delicate, the starfish often “drown” when out of the water.

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