Archive for January, 2009

60% of Spaniards would pay tax to protect nature

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

A survey published today in El Pais suggests that there is a growing acceptance in Spanish society of the need to protect nature. Despite the economic crisis, the survey found that 60% of Spaniards would pay a tax to protect nature. 80% stated that they were “very” or “quite” worried about the state of Spain’s natural heritage, and 73% believed it was necessary to intervene to protect endangered animals. The survey was carried out by the Fundación Félix Rodríguez.

Some more results according to the study:

  • 4 out of 10 Spaniards would be prepared to change their own consumer and leisure habits to help conserve the country’s natural heritage and biodiversity.
  • 8 out of 10 are in favour of the promotion of “ecological” agriculture.
  • Spanish people see a very strong connection between rural development and the conservation of biodiversity.
  • 80% say that progress and development of rural areas will guarantee the conservation of nature and the protection of natural species, in addition to improving the life of people living in cities.
  • Most believe that that the recovery of endangered species will help increase the value of rural areas. This is linked to the results showing that the abandonment of the countryside is seen as the third most important cause of loss of biodiversity (17%,) after pollution (28%) and building (30%) and ahead of climate change (16%).
  • Because of this more than half of those interviewed (52%) said that they would prepared to pay a tax to promote development and progress in rural areas. However, society is more concerned by the negative consequences of environmental degradation than for nature in itself. People stated that the loss of species would affect them directly in terms of health (31%) and in terms of food quality (31%). Read in El Pais

The survey is line with the ideas promoted by the RUNA project of the Fundación Félix Rodríguez which in some capacity I hope to be involved with.

RUNA seeks to combine rural life with the natural world, and hand back the custody of the latter to the people who live in isolated rural areas, and who, by accident or design, over the centuries managed to foster such a rich biodiversity. This is to be a partnership between those who live and work in the rural world (farmers, hunters, foresters, etc) and those who work in natural history (biologists, wardens and environmentalists), turning biodiversity into an economic asset which can foster sustainable development and bring young people back.


Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

Some lovely photos by Maria of Mt Trevenque in the Sierra Nevada covered in snow. Maria notes “It is not linked by ridges to any other peak, has the ideal mountain profile and has one of the best summits in the Sierra Nevada. Oh, if only it were 1000m higher.”

Wolf hunting in Castilla-Leon

Monday, January 26th, 2009

Spanish TV’s documentary flagship Informe Semanal showed this documentary last week about the illegal shooting of wolves in Castilla-León where every year as many as 500-600 wolves are killed by hunters, 90’% of which are shot illegally.

The new wolf hunting management plan in Castilla y León is alarming Spanish conservationists. The price for shooting a wolf in Castilla y León is set at 3000 euros. Meanwhile, many more are killied illegally, some of which because of an increasing interest among illegal hunting rings under the tacit protection of the regional government. In most of Castilla-León, wolves enjoy scant support as they are responsible for some 300,000 euros in sheep deaths. This has become much worse with the removal of carrion because of the BSE crisis. Yet, as I have mentioned here many times before the opportunities of wolf tourism as shown in the Sierra de la Culebra, offers a different way forward.

Using donkeys to protect sheep from wolves

Monday, January 26th, 2009

Interesting Galician short news item about a farm which is using donkeys to protect its flock of sheep from wolves, an idea taken from the use of donkeys to protect livestock from leopards in Namibia. Donkeys it seems, unlike most breeds of cows, will face up to wolves rather than run away.

Ripped by forestman
Casa Grande de Xanceda the eco-yoghurt farm

Cetaceans in the Bay of Biscay

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

Some of you will have read on iberianature Dylan Walker’s excellent summary of whale watching in the Bay of Biscay. Now I’ve managed to get hold of a copy of his book (co-written with Graeme Cresswell) on whale and dolphin watching in the European Atlantic (Whales & Dolphins of the European Atlantic. This is an attractive and excellent practical guide which manages to condense in 88 pages a great deal of useful information through very clear and efficient use of text, tables, photos and images – one of the best uses of space I’ve seen in any guidebook.

The book features an introduction to cetaceans and the region covered (much of which can be accessed from the coasts of Northern Spain) and great practical tips and know-how on how to watch whales and tell them apart, something many of us know very little about. The introduction also includes sections on watching whales from ferries and boats, typical whale behaviour and the influence of sea conditions. They clearly have years of experience behind them and have decided to share this with the rest of us.

The book then moves onto the illustrated profiles of the 18 regularly occurring and 13 rare cetaceans found in the region. Each profile includes a description of behaviour, status and distribution and is illustrated by an image of the species and computer enhanced photographs annotated with useful tips on identifying the species. There is also a colour distribution map accompanied by a monthly frequency bar chart, and an original image depicting the species side on in the water helpfully including a gannet for scale. The book also includes articles on identifying Mesoploden beaked whales (the toughest challenge of them all) and rare species, and finishes with a glossary. I also liked the handy size and the plastic cover reminding us that this is a practical guide and tempting us to get out on a boat and use it on a blustery day somewhere in the Atlantic.

On a final note, the book is published by WILDguides. This is a non-profit publisher which gives all of its profits to conservation organisations that work on the area or organisms treated by each guide.

I wonder if they’ll get round to translating it into Spanish. Top photo is of a school of common dolphins sent to me by Dylan.
See also 2008 Plymouth – Santander Big Whale Watch

Badger tracks in the snow

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

I enjoyed this series of posts on the forum of badger tracks in the snow. Photo by Phil.

Bear building a den

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

Villarina the young bear which was recently released back in the wild after having been rescued as a cub has been busy recently building a den for herself as can be seen in this nice little video.

See also bear cub returned to wild

Pelican in Spain

Sunday, January 18th, 2009

Most unusually, a wild pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus) has turned up with a group of storks in Lerida. It probably breeds in Eastern Europe and usually migrates to Africa through Turkey and Egypt, but somehow has strayed too far to the west, and joined up with these storks who have come from Germany and Switzerland. I believe there are around half a dozen sightings of pelicans in Spain a decade. Photo from flickr, taken in Lleida on December 31st (by eb3alfmiguel)
Read about this story on the forum
Read in El Periódico

Wolf hunting

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

The new wolf hunting management plan in Castilla y León is alarming Spanish conservationists. The price for shooting a wolf in Castilla y León is set at 3000 euros, though many more are also killied illegally, some of which because of an increasing interest among illegal hunting rings under the tacit protection of the regional government. If you can get Spanish television, Informe Semanal is to show a report on the issue on 17th January.

  • Fapas
  • EU to accept wolf hunting (IbNat) “Some 200 wolves are hunted legally every year in Spain, and many more illegally, not just in Castilla-Leon but also in Asturias where 25 wolves were killed between January 2006 and March 2007, by officials after reports of sheep deaths. In contrast, in the Sierra de la Culebra, rich hunters pay up to 18,000 euros to kill a wolf.”

Above photo: Two wolves killed illegally in Valladolid in 2006. (El Pais). The agents seems to have taken pleasure in displaying theire capture.

Liébana’s bears

Sunday, January 4th, 2009

Residents of the village of Caloca, high in the valley of Liébana, Cantabria, had been observing a female Cantabrian brown bear and her cub on the other side of their valley through the first half of December last. Their tranquility was broken however when a boar hunt, followed by the noisy arrival of the frozen fish van, disturbed a young male bear who was forced to find refuge and entered the village. A neighbour walked out of his front door on his way to feed his livestock and was stunned to see the animal just a couple of metres from him on the road. The peaceable young bear just carried on his way while the man quietly stood witness. Once the media got wind of the story however the village has been a hive of activity during the Christmas holidays. Members of the autonomous community’s environmental department, the Picos de Europa National Park and the Fundación Oso Pardo have been kept busy monitoring the traffic flow and ensuring that visitors don’t disturb the plantigrades whilst enjoying the priviledged views of these rare jewels of the Cantabrian mountains which, even though the snow is thick on the ground, are not hibernating and able to find enough nuts and berries to make foraging worthwhile.
Among the happy locals are the owners of the village restaurant who, I’m reliably informed, took more money in a week than they’d taken all year.

See the video here on YouTube

Bears in the snow FOP

More photos here on