Chagos Archipelago

Chagos coral reef

Located 500km south of the Maldives, Chagos – also known as the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) - is an archipelago of 55 tiny islands in the central Indian Ocean which are surrounded by some of the most vibrant coral reefs, diverse marine life and cleanest water in the world.

Why we are there

The tropical coral reefs and islands of the Chagos Archipelago cover an area of approximately 19,000km2 in the BIOT. It has a huge diversity of marine and terrestrial species, with some of the most pristine coral reefs in the world and eight times more reef fish than anywhere else in the Indian Ocean. This incredible diversity, some of which is unique to Chagos, is still under pressure from threats such as climate change and illegal exploitation.

The world's largest no-take MPA

Over 275,000 people and a number of NGO's called on the UK Government to establish the territorial waters of the Chagos islands as a Marine Protected Area (MPA) in 2010. ZSL was amongst the organisations that contibuted to the science case for the creation of the reserve and that helped ensure its establishment. It is now the world's largest no-take Marine Reserve at 640,000 km2,an area twice the size of the UK. This decision was one of the most significant ways the UK could make a landmark contribute to global marine conservation.  

Scientific expeditions

As part of the ongoing work of marine science researchers, ZSL scientists and conservationists join expeditions to study the reefs and islands of the Chagos Archipelago. This vital work increases our understanding of this little-studied part of the world and ensures that the associated coastal and terrestrial ecosystems are managed effectively and remain healthy. 

Open ocean monitoring

More recently ZSL has been involved with open-ocean and deep sea monitoring of the waters surrounding the Chagos Archipelago. Using state of the art underwater cameras and tagging technology, presence and movement of top ocean predators is being documented for the first time.

Connect Chagos: People and wildlife

As part of ZSL’s commitment to global and local conservation capacity building, a multi-phase project to build environmental skills and awareness within the Chagossian community in the UK and overseas is now in its third year.

Project information

Key species


There are at least 220 species of coral on the reefs of the Chagos Archipelago, including the Chagos brain coral (Ctenella chagius), a species endemic to these waters. Corals not only created the tiny atoll islands of the Archipelago but thick strands of branching species continue to protect them from waves and storm damage.

Sharks & Rays

The Chagos Archipelago supports a diverse array of sharks and rays from coastal reef sharks to pelagic species such as the Shortfin Mako, Blue and Oceanic Whitetip sharks which patrol the open-waters. Chagos is also home to majestic animals such as reef manta rays and whale sharks. 


Prior to the MPA's establishment, tuna were commercially fished in the area. The main species targeted were the yellowfin, bigeye and skipjack tunas but a number of other species are also known to inhabit the rich Chagossian waters including albacore tuna, dogtooth tuna and various species of mackerel.

People involved

ZSL’s Heather Koldewey manages the Chagos project overall, with Matthew Gollock leading on the pelagic fish studies and co-ordination from Kirsty Richards.

David Curnick is a PhD researcher at ZSL and University College London investigating the role of large marine protected areas as a conservation strategy for pelagic tunas and sharks.

Rudy Pothin, Kirsty Richards and Amdeep Sanghera are co-ordinating the Connect Chagos community outreach programme.

Partners and sponsors

Chagos Environment Network; Marine Resources Assessment Group; University of Bangor; Chagos Conservation Trust; University of Warwick; University of Western Australia, Bertarelli Foundation, University College London,

Kindly funded by: PEW Charitable Trusts; Darwin Initiative - Overseas Territories Challenge Fund; PEW Environment Group; Defra; FCO; Waterloo Foundation; Blue Marine Foundation; Bertarelli Foundation; University College London; Rufford Small Grants Foundation.

News and blog links

David Curnick’s blog

Chagos expedition blog


Connect Chagos; Environment Day; Marine life; Outreach; Educatio
Chagos Environment Day 2012 at London Zoo

As part of ZSL’s ongoing work focused on the Chagos marine reserve we are delivering an outreach and environmental education project. Through a suite of community days, nature taster sessions and the Connect Chagos Environmental Training Course we aim to connect Chagossian people in the UK and overseas with their natural heritage as well as building employable skills.


Connect Chagos Environmental Training Course

Sign up for the CCET Course with us now!

Who is the course for?

  • Anyone with a strong interest in the Chagos environment and nature heritage that is looking for new skills - it is all free!
  • Those wanting to learn about the global importance of Chagos and all the different animals and plants found in the archipelago.
  • People willing to commit to specific Saturdays in order to attend learning sessions and outdoors activities- all nature related!

What will you gain from the course?

  • Trainees will gain an understanding of the Chagos Islands and their animals and plants
  • Some of the basic skills needed to be able take part in the protection and restoration of nature.
  • Once you have completed the course successfully, one trainee can take part on an exciting scientific expedition to Chagos.
  • Ongoing support and funding opportunities available for the trainees who would like to take their interest further.
  • Experience and skills for your CV

Applicants need to be over 16 with a good level of English and ability to commit to the course.

If interested please email:

Contact :  02074 496646 or 07440 187756


Connect Chagos Internship

  • Position for 6 months (3-4 days per week) with regular travel to the Chagossian communities in Crawley and Manchester.
  • Travel expenses will be covered as well as a contribution for lunch.
  • Potential for time to be spent working directly with project partners such as RSPB.

Find out more


Contact the Connect Chagos Team:


Phone: 02074496646 or 07864714344

Connect Chagos Team:

Amdeep Sanghera is the Connect Chagos Project Support Officer

Rudy Pothin is the Connect Chagos Outreach Assistant

Kirsty Richards is the Connect Chagos Project Co-ordinator


Connect Chagos 2014 Booklet cover

Connect Chagos 2014 Booklet (9.49 MB)


Partners, Supporters and Sponsors

Chagos Conservation Trust

Darwin initiative

Bangor University



Manchester Museum

Blue Ventures


Yu Diving

London School of Diving

The Deep Aquarium

The Horniman Museum

City of London

The Ness Botanical Gardens

Natural England

Sayers Croft