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Were there ever wolves on this Canary islet?

Were there ever wolves on this Canary islet?

04/10/2018

Belkys Rodríguez Blanco

Some people use the words small and wild to describe it. It is a tiny universe that floats at the mercy of Atlantic currents. José Rial, poet, journalist and narrator, would live there with his family during 1913. He was the lighthouse keeper and by then the owner of the single house on the islet. Since there are no schools and not by a long chalk a library, he decided to put up one with the books he used to read during his childhood. That is how his sons got to know Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver, the King Solomon and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, among other characters of world literature. 

Islote de Lobos, Wolves Islet, has hosted intrepid fishermen, Romans, pirates and lighthouse keepers. It has an area of barely 6 square kilometers and the highest point, La Caldera, is 127 meters (417 feet) above sea level. It is flanked by two islands which also belong to the archipelago: Fuerteventura and Lanzarote. The origin of its name has nothing to do with the carnivorous mammal canis lupus. It was named after monk seals, also known as sea wolves, animals that used to live there until they were eliminated by fishermen who believed their voracity was the reason of the decrease of species in the area. This marine mammals are today in danger of extinction. 

A proper islet needs a lighthouse and Lobos´ one was built in 1860 in Punta Martiño, in the northern area. There is a group of houses around it owned by people who permanently live there. The Portuguese workers who were in charge of its construction built some huts in a place called Llano de los Labrantes. In July 1865, the boats which sailed nearby made out for the first time the glint of light coming from the lighthouse of that islet which once hosted sea wolves and where lighthouse keepers used to tell stories by twilight. 

The local newspaper Canarias7 recently published that sea wolves will be back by 2019 to Jandía Natural Park. They will come back from Cabo Blanco (Mauritania) to settle into this area of Fuerteventura. Local authorities claim that food is guaranteed and that they will not be threatened. The reason is that only artisanal fishing is allowed in Lobos, bottom trawling and all types of fishing nets, which are the main enemies of this marine species, are strictly forbidden. Fishermen themselves showed their initiative to forbid them more than twenty years ago. This decision slowed down the depletion of resources and turned fishing into a sustainable activity.  

Thus, sea wolves and human being coexist in perfect harmony in this protected natural area. 

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