Balearics

Articles in ‘Balearics’

March news

March 29th, 2011

I’ve been woefully neglecting this section of iberianature recently. Here are a couple of recent wildlife stories in the English press.

The Missing Lynx (The Guardian) Good article. “Ten years ago, there were barely 100 Iberian lynx left. But an innovative Spanish conservation programme is rescuing them from the edge of extinction”

And this story about ancient giant bunnies from Menorca reported in The Scientist

The skeletal remains of a 26-pound rabbit was found on an island off the coast of Spain. Dubbed the Minorcan King of the Rabbits, this ancient rabbit lived approximately three to five million years ago and now adds evidence to a curious rule concerning the evolution of animals in islands. The so-called “island rule” states that big animals will get smaller and small animals (such as rabbits) will get bigger when the population is isolated on an island, perhaps due to the lack of mainland predators. In this case, the King is a whopping six-times larger than living European rabbits, but due to a rigid spine and short legs, it was also unable to hop.

The second deepest natural harbour in the world

February 8th, 2010 A curiosity I heard today: Mahón, the capital of Menorca, has the second deepest natural harbour in the world – after Pearl Harbour. The harbour is 5 km long and up to 900m wide. Historically, it was one of the most strategically important harbours in the western Mediterranean. More from Wikipedia

Invasive species in Mallorca

November 26th, 2009 The biodiversity of Mallorca is threatened by invasive species. Exotic pets released by bored owners are a serious issue, including a breeding population of coatis in the Sierra de la Tramontana. El Mundo More on the Mallorcan coatis here

Monk seal population rises

July 2nd, 2008

Two weeks ago we heard the news of the appearance of a monk seal in the Isla del Toro, Mallorca. This possibly isolated event coincides with some good news of the seal’s populations slow but hopeful recovery. The Cabo Blanco colony (between Western Sahara and Mauritania) saw the birth last year of 46 pups, practically the same as in 2006, and doubling those of previous years. The colony is now made up of 180 individuals of which some 50 are breeding females, demonstrating that it is finally beginning to recover from the mass epidemic caused by a toxic seaweed of the late 1990s which killed off 75% of the colony.

Elsewhere, in 2007 in Greece 28 pups were born, and in the Desertas Islands (Madeira), there are just three breeding females. The Algerian and Moroccan coasts support no more than 15 individuals. Source: La Crónica Verde

Distribution of monk seals. From The Monachus Guardian.

Figures of a world population of 500 Mediterranean monk seals are being quoted in the press though I can find no “official” figure. The Monachus Guardian states

“Thousands of islands, inaccessible coastlines, and a species that shies away from human contact have all conspired to make distribution and abundance assessments for the Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus) an extraordinarily inexact science. Conventional wisdom, however, suggests that fewer than 600 individuals survive, making the Mediterranean monk seal Europe’s most endangered marine mammal

Monk seal spotted off coast of Mallorca

June 17th, 2008

Remarkable news. A diver from Palma claims to have seen (and taken photo above) a possible monk seal (foca monje – Monachus monachus) in the marine reserve of Isla del Toro. The monk seal is considered to be extinct is the Balearic Islands (where it was known popularly as the vell marí – old man of the sea) since the late 1950s, and is among the ten most endangered mammals in the world, with colonies divided between Mauritania and the Eastern Mediterranean, the former being far the stronger. If true, I imagine we are talking about an animal in dispersion or just plain lost. The Balearic government periodically considers the possibility of attempting to reintroduce the animal. Whether it would fare well in an area of sea so popular with pleasure craft is another question. See more in El País

Update: this version of the story from Libertad Balear is much better researched.

There is also a half plan to reintroduce the animal along the Costa Brava (La foca monje volverá a Cadaqués – El País)

A small group of monk seals survived in Cabo de Gata, Almeria until the 1960s.

See also

Building freeze on Balearic coastline

November 8th, 2007

The Guardian reports today:

“The Balearic islands are to freeze all construction along the most delicate parts of coastlines and around the islands’ capitals, which have been blighted by property developments since mass tourism first arrived in Spain in the 60s. The plan, set to be announced tomorrow, will come into force immediately in an effort to save some of the most beautiful coastlines on the islands of Ibiza, Mallorca and Menorca, from further development.” Read on the Guardian

See also “Medio siglo de éxito del turismo de masas y de élite, más el urbanismo salvaje reciente, han dejado su huella de hormigón sobre buena parte del paisaje costero. Pero la mayor parte del perfil insular, de 1.428 kilómetros, no ha sido explotada: está casi intacta, a salvo del desarrollismo que dejó inaccesible, sin uso público, muchas decenas de kilómetros.” Paraíso y caos en la costa balear (El Pais) “

Origin of escargot

September 8th, 2007

Wikipedia tells me that Catalan is the origin of the French and posh English word for snail, escargot. This would be a corruption of “es cargol – the snail”, the es being the salat definite article still used in the Balearics and parts of the Costa Brava, once more widespread in Catalan and Gascon speaking areas.