Islands Inhabited only by Animals

Although humans have tried to have a presence in almost every part of the world, there are certain areas where they haven't settled. Such is the case of the islands inhabited mostly by animals, where fauna is the main feature.
Islands Inhabited only by Animals

Last update: 28 October, 2022

It isn’t unusual for us to encounter all kinds of species in cities or public areas. However, there are some islands inhabited only by animals (mostly!), and there it would be unusual to find a human!

Here’s a list of 6 different islands isolated from human contact and the species that are the only inhabitants there. Whether endemic or introduced, these animals are safe from human intervention.

Islands inhabited only by animals (mostly!)

1. Ilha de Queimada Grande

Better known as Cobras Island, it’s an area of 43 hectares located 30 kilometers off the coast of Sao Paulo, Brazil. This island is home to the Bothrops insularis, a viper that has a venom 5 times more potent than the fearsome Yarará.

This snake feeds on large birds, as the small ones have learned to alert others of the predator’s presence. Because of this, its venom has become evolutionarily stronger. However, the species is in critical danger of extinction, due to forest fires  on the island. Access to it is prohibited by the Brazilian government.

Islands inhabited only by animals.

2. Aoshima

Although this island in southern Japan does have a tiny human population, its main inhabitants are cats. It’s inhabited by only 20 elderly people who are sustained thanks to the tourism generated by this small area, where 120 felines of different breeds and colors converge. The cats were introduced on the island to control a plague of rodents that affected the small fishing region.

In the 4.4 hectares that comprise the island, the cats reproduced at an accelerated rate after World War II. They’re fed by tourists in small quantities so as not to affect their health. Today, Japan has more than 12 islands inhabited virtually exclusively by cats, which are known as nekojimas .

Lots of cats.

3. Big Major Cay

This is a small island of 90 hectares located in the Bahamas. It has 3 freshwater springs, which serve as an indispensable source for the wild pigs that inhabit it. Unofficial versions state that the pigs arrived here after surviving a shipwreck or that some sailors left them on the island to eat them later, but they never returned.

Besides a few cats and goats, this is another of the islands inhabited only by animals. Many tourists come to interact with the curious pigs, which adapted without problem to the beach lifestyle. Since 2017, it’s forbidden to feed the 20 pigs that inhabit the island and they’re protected by the Bahamian government.

Pigs swimming.

4. Malpelo Island

This island is located in the Pacific Ocean, 500 kilometers off the Colombian coast. This volcanic island of 35 hectares doesn’t have much wildlife on the surface, apart from some birds, reptiles and a few plants. There are some species endemic to the island, such as the Anolis agassizi (Dactyloa agassizi).

However, in the depths of its waters lies a valuable treasure: a big colony of hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna mokarran), whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) and smalltooth sand tigers (Odontaspis ferox). These are affected by illegal shark fishing, so the Colombian government established a small national Navy base to defend the area.

Malpelo Island was declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 2006.

Hammerhead sharks.

5. Komodo

This is a well-known island belonging to Indonesia, home of the popular Komodo Dragon (Varanus komodoensis), identified as the largest lizard in the world. This region has an area of 390 square kilometers and is only populated by a few indigenous tribes, which don’t exceed 2000 individuals.

The Komodo Dragons are the main attraction of the island and are protected by a natural park, which was declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1991. However, efforts haven’t been sufficient and this reptile species is considered Vulnerable (VU) within the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Komodo dragons.

6. Assateague

This island is located in the United States, in the territories of the states of Maryland and Virginia. It has an area of 60 kilometers and is one of the islands inhabited only by animals. In this case, the residents are wild horses descendants of more than 1000 pack animals, which were released in this area.

The island has swamps where the horses, which have adapted without any major problems to the heat of the Atlantic and the summer storms, cool off. There are 2 herds of horses that converge on this island, which is divided by a metal fence, which serves as a state division.

Horses on the beach.

Several animals haven’t been overcome by human presence, and have made certain places their own. In addition to these cases, there’s also the case of the Christmas Island Crabs in Australia and the Marine Iguanas on Fernandina Island in the Galapagos. If you ever visit these landscapes, make sure you respect and look after these areas of endemic species.

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  • Linares, R., & Fandiño, M. C. (2009). Estado del bosque seco tropical e importancia relativa de su flora leñosa, islas de la Vieja Providencia y Santa Catalina, Colombia, Caribe suroccidental. Revista de la Academia Colombiana de Ciencias, 33(126), 1-12.