One of the biggest lures for visitors at the Cocos Island for explorers, divers, biologists and sailors is its rich biodiversity. The Island’s much sought after tropical waters teem with life including innumerable white tip reef sharks, schooling hammerhead sharks, dolphins, mantas and marbled rays, giant moray eels, sailfish, and the occasional whale shark. Other common sightings here are large schools of jacks and tuna, silky sharks, silver tip sharks, marlin, Creole fish, green turtles and octopus. Teeming with abundant marine wildlife and a staggering biodiversity makes Cocos Island a must visit destination for experienced divers.
Cocos Island is home to more than 30 species of reef, 60 species of crustaceans, and about 300 species of fish. It’s a mix of crystalline, shallow water and deep water pelagic fish that screams out to divers from all over the world. Divers can witness large schools of yellow-fin tuna, giant manta rays, billfish, eels, and about seven different species of sharks including the biggest fish on earth, the whale shark. This is where hammerhead sharks can be spotted in droves of hundreds owing to the island being the largest cleaning station in the world. Other than that, divers can also spot whales, dolphins, and three different varieties of turtles including the hawksbill, green, and olive ridley. To offer additional testimony of how spectacular the entire marine life is, PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) recently named Cocos Island one of the top ten dive spots on the planet. Diving trips are carried out with the help of ships moored at the island, since other than the station staff no one is allowed to inhabit the island.
Cocos Island is the habitat of around least thirty endemic fish species including the exotic red-lipped batfish. The terrestrial wildlife here also displays a high range of indigenous plants. This is the hotbed of about seventy out of the two hundred thirty five identified vascular plant species all over the planet. There are more than 90 bird species flying above the waters of Cocos lsland, including the famous Cocos Island cuckoo, finch and flycatcher. The island has about three hundred sixty two species of insects, out of which nearly sixty four endemic species. Cocos also has a couple of native reptile species.
There are at least 5 species of mammals found on the Cocos Island, all of which have been introduced by sailors/explorers over a period of many years for consumption (breeding of pigs). They include pigs, deer, cats, and rats, which the government has pledged to keep in check so as to minimize damage to the natural ecosystem.
Preserving the biological diversity of Cocos Island has for long been the fundamental objective of the National Park Service, but this the aim is not be fulfilled for various reasons. The hazard to the preservation of the indigenous species of Cocos comes directly from the freshly introduced plants and animals and indirectly from the economic crisis of the country. At the beginning of the century, however, several of human settlers on Cocos Island have made multiple colonization attempts. Their arrival marked the introduction of several species including feral -pigs, goats, rats, cots and white-tail deer. The pigs presented the greatest threat to Cocos’ delicate ecological balance. They roam around the island, causing destruction by altering the natural vegetation. The pigs affect the distribution of several flora by dispersing the seeds and causing destruction to the root system. They uproot the foliage thus causing soil erosion.