Among Cocos Island’s many attributes is a startling degree of biodiversity. This island’s world-renowned waters explode with life including innumerable white tip reef sharks, schooling hammerheads, dolphins, mantas and marbled rays, giant moray eels, sailfish, and of course the occasional whale shark. Other common encounters are large schools of jacks and tuna, silky sharks, silver tips, marlin, Creole fish, green turtles and octopus.
Cocos Island is also home to at least 27 endemic fish species including the exotic rosy-lipped batfish. The terrestrial life at Cocos also exhibits a high number of endemic species. The island is home to 70 of the 235 identified vascular plant species in the world, some 25 species of moss, 27 species of liverwort and 85 species of fungus. There are upwards of 87 bird species, including the famous Cocos Island cuckoo, finch and flycatcher. There are 362 species of insects, of which 64 are endemic. Two native reptiles are found only on the Island.
Beneath the waterfalls and in the rivers, are freshwater fish that mystify scientists by their very existence. Because of its remote location and abundance of fresh water, Cocos has, throughout history, been a favorite re-supply station for pirates, whalers and sailors.
Early visitors left pigs on the island as a self-perpetuating source of fresh meat. To this day feral pigs and deer abound, much to the detriment of the island’s indigenous ground-nesting birds. These animals, introduced by man, are also responsible for hastening soil erosion with their digging, which undermines and degrades the native vegetation.