The Mata Natural Reserve has a 3 km long pine forest, which connects Vila Real de Santo António and Monte Gordo. The Mata Nacional das Dunas Litorais de Vila Real de Santo António assumes a protective role in this region, working as a means of fixing the dune system, controlling the sea winds and sheltering the wild fauna.
The Forest is home to an important population of chameleons, a reptile that has one of the last strongholds of its natural habitat here.
The sandy soil, covered almost exclusively by maritime pine and some localized patches of stone pine, makes it difficult for the vegetation to settle. The forest currently has an important social function whose maintenance is essential for the enhancement of the quality of life of the population around it. The fauna and flora, allied to the fresh atmosphere of this place, are an attractive invitation for walking or sporting activities.
The Municipality of Vila Real de Santo António, in partnership with the Association “Vita Nativa” – Conservation of the Environment, is promoting the conservation of the common chameleon (Chamaeleo chamaeleon), through the «Chameleon Project».The initiative aims to sensitize the community about the importance of conserving this emblematic animal in the Eastern Algarve region, alerting to the threat factors in order to minimize them and improving knowledge about the geographic and biological distribution of this species. The project also includes several actions aimed at minimizing threats to the species, above all trampling, illegal capture, predation by domestic animals, in addition to habitat degradation and fragmentation.The objectives of the initiative are to develop an awareness campaign in order to value the maintenance of this emblematic animal, to promote scientific research on its ecology and current distribution and to train the only Wild Animal Recovery Center in the Algarve (RIAS) to receive and recovery of individuals found injured or debilitated.