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Robinson Crusoe Island


Conservation benefitEnvironmental education and removal of invasive plants from 12.4-acre area

Community benefitConstruction of an environmental education and volunteer center

Date Approved: 02.2015

The remote Juan Fernández archipelago is home to an amazing number of species that live nowhere else. There are 137 unique plant species and three unique animal species, as well as four subspecies. The archipelago sits in the Pacific, about 400 miles west of mainland Chile. Alejandro Selkirk Island is the largest of the group, at 5,000 hectares (19 square miles), and has the most endemic species. Its human residents make a living primarily from fishing and ecotourism.

Most of the archipelago is part of Juan Fernández National Park, and it was declared a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve in 1977. In 2009, the IUCN named the park as one of the 12 most threatened national parks on the planet. Invasive plants pose a huge threat to its biodiversity.

The Juan Fernández Islands Conservancy Program will clear invasive plants from at least 12.4 acres (five hectares) of Alejandro Selkirk Island, working with community members, volunteers, and the National Parks Administration. It will also undertake a 10-year environmental education program, encouraging residents, students, and tourists to actively participate in island conservation.

To support these efforts, Seacology is funding construction of an environmental education center on Robinson Crusoe island. The building will also house the volunteer groups that come each year to help remove invasive species.

Project Updates

May 2018

Invasive plants on Alejandro Selkirk Island are being removed. Construction of the volunteer center should commence soon when a site is confirmed.

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May 2017

Another wrinkle in this project has developed. A newly elected mayor on Robinson Crusoe Island is refusing to honor an agreement signed by the former mayor, allowing construction of the environmental education center. So the search for a suitable site continues. However, the good conservation news is that the invasive plants on Alejandro Selkirk Island are still being removed.

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December 2016

This project took an unexpected turn when the Forestry Corporation of Chile, which administers the Juan Fernández National Park, revoked its permission for our nonprofit partner to build an environmental education center on Alejandro Selkirk Island. Fortunately, construction had not yet begun, and the center can still be built in the Juan Fernández archipelago, on nearby Robinson Crusoe Island. Seacology’s field representative in Chile, Claudio Delgado, reports that the removal of invasive species on Alejandro Selkirk Island continues.

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May 2016

Most Seacology projects are in remote places, but the logistical challenges of this project stand out. Supplies come to the archipelago’s main island once a month, on a Chilean navy ship; then they must be taken by small fishing boats to Alejandro Selkirk Island, sea conditions permitting. About 80% of the materials for this project have been bought, and some of them have made it to Selkirk Island. Construction of the education and visitors center is now planned to begin in August. So far, the building site has been cleared, and in the summer (January through March), progress was made on eradicating invasive plants.

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January 2016

Good progress has been made on this project. The Juan Fernández Islands Conservancy Program secured permission from the Forestry Corporation of Chile (which administers the park) to build the environmental education center, had building plans drawn up, and reached an agreement with the island’s fishermen’s association to use the fishermen’s landing and connect the building to the town water system. The site was cleared and prepared, and the foundation has been laid. The project manager has been ordering supplies and coordinating with the Chilean Navy to ship materials transported to the island. Construction is planned for January through March, when weather is best on the island.

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