National Centre for Environmental Education & Nature Conservation, Interpretation Centre of the Santo André and Sancha lagoons






East Atlantic flyway


WLI Europe


Name of organisation

Institute of Nature Conservation and Forests, I.P.

Funding support

State Budget

Number of staff


Number of visitors per year


Overall aims of the centre

To promote the dissemination of information about the national natural heritage, particularly the wetlands, as well as providing a place to increase environmental education on bio and geodiversity.

Description of the centre

The National Center for Environmental Education and Nature Conservation (NCEENC) is located in the Natural Reserve of Santo André and Sancha Lagoons, a protected area created by the Portuguese Government in 2000, less than 140 km south from Lisbon. Besides a nature reserve, it is also a wetland of international importance (under the Ramsar Convention), is a Important Bird Area, within the scope of BirdLife, has two Special Protection Areas of Birds and is a Special Area of Conservation, under the European Union's Habitats Directive.
Its wetlands and well preserved littoral ecosystems support a diversity of habitat and biological communities (so far it has been registered 593 of vascular plants (that is, about 16% of the total vascular plants existing in mainland Portugal - remarkable for such a small reserve, which covers just over 0.04% of the country's continental land area), 54 marine, freshwater and migratory fish species (European eel, …), 12 amphibian species, 15 reptile species, 31 mammal species (eurasian otter, cabrera’s vole,…), 272 bird species (western swamphen, flamingo, eurasian spoonbill, black-tailed godwit,… more than 59% of the 460 already recorded for Portugal), 344 aquatic invertebrate species, and 205 butterfly species), with significant number of threatened, endangered and endemic species.
The reserve located on an important migratory corridor, present several protected resting places and abundant food resources, it is common to find here concentrations of several thousands of waterbirds. At the area we have also the oldest Portuguese ringing station, where it has already been ringed more than 151.000 birds from 185 different species.
The National Center is a complex of several buildings, from which we highlight infrastructures of different valences, among them a reception area, a Interpretative Centre which has a permanent exhibition, a multipurpose hall with a small cafeteria and a meeting/training room for about 40 people, a dormitory with 20 beds (currently deactivated for the public), an equipped kitchen and laundry, and sanitary facilities sized for the expected occupation capacity. The area has 6 walking trails around the lagoons and one leaves from the Interpretive Center. Annually the center receives about 3000 visitors, mostly from local schools, tourists and birdwatchers.

Work Areas

Main CEPA work area

The visitor centre aims to raise local and regional awareness about the importance of birds and natural and cultural values of the Santo André e Sancha lagoons area.
We have a range of environmental education activities for schools, adapted to age and different thematics.
We also arrange open days for the general public with activities for people of all ages, where we include guided-visits to the reserve.

Top three successes

The environmental education programme and teachers formation action;
We arrange very successful guided-visits to the reserve for local people (once a month) along our walking trails.
The work done in monitoring various species of fauna, especially butterflies, mammals and water birds, highlighting the existence of the ornithological station in the reserve, open to the local and university public, representing an important tool for the divulgation of the key species, through the ringing activity

Top three challenges

Engaging more birdwatching visitors to the Nature Reserve;
Open the interpretation centre during the weekend;
There should be more bird observatories along the trails


Interpretation techniques

Creating signage; site information; Producing written materials; Using audio-visual tools; Developing nature trails

Visitor centres

Managing / creating habitat; Running a visitor centre


Engaging young people; Engaging the local community; Working with volunteers

Education and communication

Early years education; Working with primary schools; Developing resources / materials


Auditing / assessing effectiveness; PR and marketing; Running effective administration; Health and safety; Fund-raising; Project planning.


Centro Nacional de Educação Ambiental e Conservação da Natureza, Monte do Paio, 7500-014 Brescos,

Name: João Carlos Farinha
Telephone: 00 351 962714648

Name: Ana Isa Figueira

Join WLI free and create your own member profile showcasing the work you are doing.