Malé: Wish it is more greener!


Marine environment is the dominating environment of the Maldives, with coral reefs forming the major ecosystem. The 1190 coral islands of the Maldives make up less than 1 per cent of the total area of the country. The other ecosystem includes, sea grass beds, mangroves and swamps.

The islands of the Maldives differ from simple sand banks to larger islands with various types of vegetation. The natural vegetation of the Maldives is tropical rain forest. The soil in the center of the islands is normally rich and the soil in the periphery is less fertile. Flora and Fauna of these islands has no important endemism.

Adams. D in 1988 classified vegetation in the islands of the Maldives into five categories. Namely beach pioneers, littoral hedge, sublittoral thicket, climax forest, mangrove and swamp forest. Vegetation on a natural beach are highly salt tolerant and around twenty species of plants are documented on natural beaches.

The “ littoral hedge” is the second category with roughly about ten or so common species. The most common of all are Scaevola sericea (magoo) and Pemphis acidula (kuredi). These plant species are normally with numerous branches and normally scrubby.

The “sublittoral thicket” is the third category with distinct community of small trees comprising of more salt sensitive species found behind the beaches. This area contains about twenty common species and the dominant trees being Cordia subcordata ( kaani), Guettarda ( uni) Hibiscus tiliaceus ( diggaa) and Premna obtusifolia.

The “ climax forest” is the fourth category which comprises of mature trees mainly the “sublittoral thicket”. In addition to this, Hernandia nymphaeiflia ( kandu) and Terminalia catappa ( midhilli) are found in this area. This is the most common vegetation occurring in the islands . Introduction of alien plant species and coconut and due to other human activities natural vegetation pattern of the islands have been altered over the years nationwide. However, there are number of uninhabited island left with pattern of vegetation recognized by Adams.

According to Adams, there are 583 vascular plant species, of which 323 are cultivated, 260 species are native and naturalized plants. Out of these native and naturalized plants fewer than 100 species can be called indigenous.

There are 13 species of mangroves recognized by Untawale and Jagtap (1991).

Terrestrial animals are limited in the Maldives, and most species are not unique but are widely distributed throughout the atolls. The native land mammals on the islands include two species of fruit bat, Indian flying fox (Pteropus giganteus ariel) and a subspecies of variable flying fox ( Pteropus hypomelanus maris). Maldives garden shrews locally known Hikandhi (Tupaias), can be considered as native mammal too.

Marine mammal fauna documented in the Maldives by the Marine Research Section include 9 species of whales and 7 species of dolphins. Whales and dolphins have been declared as protected species since 1993.

Species of dolphins found in the Maldives:

Common Name Scientific Name Local Name
Striped Dolpins Stenella coerulcoalbu Koamas
Pantropical Spotted Dolphin Stenella attenuala Koamas
Rough-toothed dolphin Steno bredanenis Koamas
Bottlenose dolphin Tursiops iruncalus Koamas
Risso's dolphin Grampus griseus Koamas
Freser's dolphin Legenodelphis hosei Koamas
Spinner Dolphin Stenella longirostris Koamas

Species of whales found in the Maldives are:

Common Name Scientific Name Local Name
Bryde's whale Balaenoplera edeni Bodumas
Blue whale Balaenoplera musculus Bodumas
Dwarf sperm whale Kogia simus Bodumas
Sperm whale Physeter macrocephalus Bodumas
Blainville's beaked whale Mesoplodon densirostris Bodumas
Cuvier's beaked whale Ziphius cavirostris Bodumas
Pygmy killer whale Feresu altenuala Bodumas
Short-finned Pilot whale Globicephala mucrorhynchus Bodumas
Falser killer whale Pseudorca crassidens Bodumas

Reptiles and amphibians

Reptiles and amphibians recorded from the islands include 2 geckoes (Hemidactylus spp.), 2 agamid lizards including the common garden lizard or blood sucker (Calotes versicolar), the snake skink (Riopa albopunktata), common wolf snake (Lycodon aulicus), another snake, Typhlos braminus, a short-headed frog, Rana breviceps, and a larger toad, Bufo melanostictus .

The Maldives is important nesting site for the endangered green turtle (Chelonia mydas) Other sea turtles using the islands are hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys ambricata) loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta gigas), the Olive Ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea), The leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriancea) is an occasional visitor to the Maldivian sea.


Over 100 species, 36 seabirds, have been recorded from the Maldives. Due to the smallness of the islands in the Maldives , seabirds are the most common resident birds in the country. The rest of birds are migrant, vagrants, introduced or imported species.

Protected Birds
Recently Introduced Birds
Sea Birds


Sharks documented in the Maldives by the Marine Research Section include14 species of sharks. Whale shark has been declared as a protected marine specie since 1993.

Common Name Scientific Name Local Name
Whitetip Reef Shark Triaeodon obesus Faana miyaru
Blacktip Reef Shark Carcharhinus melanopterus Falhu miyaru
Grey Reef Shark Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos Vah boa miyaru
Silvertip Shark Carcharhinus albimarginatus Kattafulhi miyaru

Oceanic Whitetip Shark
Carcharhinus longimanus Feeboa miyaru
Silky Shark Carcharhinus falciformis Oivaali miyaru
Blue Shark Prionace glauca Andhun miyaru
Tiger Shark Galeocerdo cuvier Femunu
Scalloped Hammerhead Shark Sphyrna lewini Kalhigandu miyaru
Great Hammerhead Shark Sphyrna mokarran Kalhigandu miyaru
Shortfin Mako Shark Isurus oxyrinchus Woshimas miyaru
Whale Shark Rhincodon typus Fehurihi
Varigated Shark Stegostoma fasciatum Hitha miyaru
Tawny Nurse Shark Nebrius ferrugineus Nidhan miyaru


  • Adams, D., 1988. Plant life. In: Paul A. Webb. Maldives people and environment . Identification. Report No. RAS/79/123. Rome: FAO. 40p.
  • Anderson, R. C. 1996.Divers' Guide to the Sharks of the Maldives, Novelty Press
  • Bluepeace, 1996. Marine Turtle Conservation in the Maldives. Dhanfulhi.8:6-8.
  • Frazier, J and Frazier, S 1987.Marine Turtles in the Maldivian Archipelago, IUCN; Cambridge
  • UNEP. 1998. United Nations Environment Programme - Island Directory. Retrieved (2001) from: <>.
  • Webb, P. C .1988. People and Environment of Maldives- Novelty Press-Male'
  • Untawale, A.G. and T.G. Jagtap, 1991. Scientific report on status of atoll mangroves from the republic of Maldives. Unpublished manuscript. National Institute of Oceanography. India. Goa.
  • Zuhair, M. 1997. Biodiversity Conservation in Maldives: Interim Report to the Convention on Biological Diversity. Retrieved (2001) from: <>