Thursday, March 19, 2015

Spanish and Portuguese Groups Team Up to Save Sierra Morena's Iberian Wolf Population

Iberian wolf

More than a dozen groups from Spain and Portugal have recently united to initiate a campaign to save an Iberian wolf population living in the Sierra Morena mountains. The mountain range, which straddles the border between Andalusia and Castilla-La Mancha, has been a haven for these wolves for thousands of years. There are now believed to be only a handful of Iberian wolves remaining in the area, and the groups suspect that this subspecies could become extinct in southern Spain unless authorities revise local hunting laws and modify the management plan for the land included in the Natura 2000 protection scheme. They feel that the wolves should be given first concern treatment if the ongoing decline of the population is to be stopped. The history of Sierra Morena's wolves goes back to 1999 when eight packs were reported, but only one is known to still live as the hybridization of the subspecies and the resulting decline in genetic growth has contributed to the effect of hunting. In 2005, it was said that the goal of the national and regional governments was to increase the wolf population in Sierra Morena to 150 individuals in fifteen packs, but ever since the mid-20th century the animal has been seen as a threat to other prey species is thus a legitimate target for human hunters. The presence of large private hunting reserves has made it difficult to conduct protection measurements, and miles of boundary fences forcefully disintegrate the wolves' natural habitat. In addition, efforts have been made on these reserves to provide hunters with large deer populations and other prey species but at the same time carnivorous species are virtually eradicated. The campaigners cautioned that if political decisions are not taken quickly in 300,000 hectares of Donana National Park and Sierra Morena's Natura 2000 land, then the wolves will disappear forever.

The campaigners from Spain and Portugal have made an excellent decision in coming together in order to save the Iberian wolves living in the Sierra Morena mountains of southern Spain. These particular wolves currently number around 300 individuals, compared to more numerous populations that inhabit northwest Spain and northern Portugal. These animals are under tremendous threat from human hunters, especially when they happen to be living on hunting reserves intended to house deer and other prey species for hunters. This results in wolves getting caught in the crossfire and are virtually eliminated in the hands of hunters. It is highly essential to save Sierra Morena's wolves whose population numbers are in a critical state, and they are living under a constant threat of hunters targeting them like they would towards nearly any other animal in Spain. The establishment of hunting reserves has and continues to disintegrate the animals' natural habitat limiting their access to new territories. In order to save them, it is highly crucial to identify and close down hunting reserves which happen to contain wolves. Furthermore, hunters need to be thoroughly educated about the of wolves as a keystone species and be warned about the consequences of killing them for sport. As part of the effort to save Sierra Morena's wolves, it would also be useful to bring wolves from northwest Spain and northern Portugal in order to repopulate the southern population. It is time to act quickly otherwise Europe's southernmost wolf population will disappear.

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