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Interview with Piqui and Lobi, the Guardians of Juan Fernández

Piqui and Lobi are working with the community of the Juan Fernández Archipelago to help protect native species like themselves by teaching people about responsible pet ownership and the importance of sustainable development.

Piqui, why don’t you introduce yourself?
Piqui: I am a Juan Fernández Firecrown, a Critically Endangered hummingbird found only on the island of Robinson Crusoe in the Juan Fernández Archipelago of Chile. I rely on the native insects and plant nectar to feed and raise happy, healthy chicks.

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And Lobi, who are you?
Lobi: I am a Juan Fernández fur seal, a species which nearly went extinct in the 19th Century through overhunting for fur, oil (for fuel), and meat. I am also native to the Archipelago (found on all three islands of the Archipelago—Robinson Crusoe, Alejandro Selkirk, and Santa Clara)—as well as the island of San Félix and San Ambrosio, of the Desventuradas Archipelago.

What is your mission?
Piqui: Our mission is to represent those who have no voice and to promote the protection of the environment so that we can all benefit from a healthy and resilient archipelago!

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What activities have you done so far within the Juan Fernandez community?
Lobi: Our first appearance was in the town plazas of San Juan Bautista on the island of Robinson Crusoe. Our friends at Island Conservation brought a group of puppeteers to the island and we toured the plazas with the troupe, reinforcing the importance of responsible pet ownership. Other activities included inviting children to spend an afternoon swimming with members of my family in Tres Puntas and participating in a beach clean-up.

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Juan Fernández Firecrown. Credit: Island Conservation

How has the community responded to you?
Piqui: Both children and adults have received us with great enthusiasm! In every activity we do, people come up to hug us and to have their pictures taken with us. It is important to us that the community welcomes us—we are Fernándezianos too!

Lobi: We are a bridge to the community. We share our experiences so that everybody is motivated to protect the natural wealth of the archipelago so that the native and unique species do not continue to decline and disappear. As for me, I try to use the story of the Juan Fernández Fur Seal to inspire people; the species dwindled to as few as 300 individuals because of indiscriminate hunting. But thanks to legal protection we are now much more numerous. That’s a story to celebrate with the community!

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Juan Fernandez Fur Seal. Credit: Island Conservation

Based on what you have seen, what more needs to be done to realize your mission in the archipelago?
Lobi: There has been a lot of progress in responsible pet ownership, but there is still a lot of work to do. Our human friends have brought pets such as dogs, cats, and livestock to the islands, which we welcome with open arms, as long as they have conscientious owners who respect us and our needs too.

Piqui: I would say the next challenge is to recognize the importance of the sustainable development of our islands and to take concrete action. We are running out of time. We need to act soon. Some of us—yes, even the hummingbird—will cease to exist if we do not take quick action to secure our future. This is our only home, we cannot go anywhere else, and we belong to this archipelago and the people of Juan Fernandez. We continue to build pride in our community and to set an example for all of the people living in harmony with nature. We can do it!

Want to hear from Piqui and Lobi? You can listen to their conversation here:

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Featured photo: A Juan Fernández Firecrown. Credit: Island Conservation

About Island Conservation

Island Conservation prevents extinctions by removing invasive species from islands. To date, we have successfully restored 60 islands worldwide, benefiting 1090 populations of 399 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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