IC helps Robinson Crusoe Island residents with tsunami recovery

Island Conservation staff work with residents of San Juan Bautista on Robinson Crusoe Island, Chile to clean up and rebuild their fishing village

At around four a.m. on February 27th 2010, Robinson Crusoe Island, Chile was struck by a tsunami. The wave was reported to be 20 meters tall.  Triggered by an 8.8 magnitude earthquake, the wave tore apart the small fishing community of San Juan Bautista, the only town on the island. Within minutes, the homes and buildings of nearly 600 people were rushed by water and swept out to sea in total darkness. All that remained were pieces of steel and concrete wrapped around high tree branches.
Since February, the community has come together to clean up San Juan Bautista, with plans to rebuild. However, re-building an entire town is not easy when bulldozers and debris containers are not available. All clean up must be done by hand. A project that might otherwise be completed in a week, instead takes months.

In early summer 2010, two Island Conservation restoration specialists traveled to Robinson Crusoe Island, in the Juan Fernandez archipelago, armed with equipment to help facilitate cleaning up debris. For two weeks straight, they spent all day using cutting torches to break up steel so it could be easily stacked on pallets and taken to the mainland by the Navy. During their time on the island, IC staff taught local residents how to use the cutting torches so the advanced clean up method could continue once they left.

Island Conservation is initiating work in Chile, with Chanaral and Choros identified as the first restoration projects. Ultimately, Island Conservation plans to restore the islands of the Juan Fernandez archipelago back to their natural state by removing invasive species. The archipelago is rich in endemic plants and animals, including the Juan Fernandez Firecrown. This magnificent hummingbird is found only on Robinson Crusoe Island.

About Island Conservation

Island Conservation prevents extinctions by removing invasive species from islands. To date, we have successfully restored 64 islands worldwide, benefiting 1195 populations of 487 species and subspecies. Working together with local communities, government management agencies, and conservation organizations, we select islands that have the greatest potential for preventing the extinction of globally threatened species.

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