Maio is one of the ten islands of Republic of Cape Verde, a country situated in the Atlantic Ocean, West of Senegal. Maio is actually the oldest island in the archipelago, and is composed of a mixture of limestone and volcanic rocks. While Maio is the island the closest to Santiago and the capital Praia, it is also the least developed and the least frequented by tourists: a 2010 census showed that it has only 6952 inhabitants, whose main sources of income are fishing, agriculture and money sent by family members who live abroad.
Maio was first populated in 1490, 30 years after its discovery by the Portuguese. The economy of the island stagnated until the end of the sixteenth century, when the English started to produce salt in the “salinas” of Maio and to export it to North America. The production eventually slowed down because of competition from other parts of the world, and today very little salt is still being produced. The Salina in Vila do Maio and the surrounding sand dunes and semi-desert areas are the home to many birds including migratory shorebirds and wading birds. It provides nesting grounds for marine turtles (Caretta caretta), geckos and skins (Tarentola rudis, Mabuya spinalis), larks, an endemic subspecies of the cream-colored courser (Cursorius curser excul) and the largest breeding Kentish plover (Charadrius alexandrinus) population in the Atlantic Oceanic Islands. In 2003, the Cape Verdean government designed eight important natural areas on the island. However, these areas are not yet legally protected. Before this can be achieved, more scientific research and biodiversity surveys will have to be carried out.