Posts Tagged ‘Spain’

Make you Fink on Friday

Just how stupid are we?

Europe’s vultures under threat from drug that killed millions of birds in Asia

After an ecological disaster in India, wildlife groups call for ban on vets using diclofenac in Italy and Spain

A Spanish griffon vulture. Vultures in Europe could be under threat from approval of the use of the drug diclofenac in Italy and Spain. Photograph: Chris Hellier/CORBIS

Wildlife groups have launched a Europe-wide campaign to outlaw a newly approved veterinary drug that has caused the deaths of tens of millions of vultures in Asia. They say that the decision to allow diclofenac to be used in Spain and Italy not only threatens to wipe out Europe’s vultures but could harm other related species, including the golden eagle and the Spanish imperial eagle, one of the world’s rarest raptors.

Diclofenac, an anti-inflammatory agent and painkiller, was introduced around the end of the 20th century in India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh to treat sick cattle. But when the cattle’s carcasses were eaten by vultures, the birds contracted a fatal kidney condition. Within a few years, vulture numbers had declined by a staggering 99.9% across south Asia. The worst-affected species included long-billed, slender-billed and oriental white-backed vultures. Dead cattle were left to rot without vultures to consume their flesh. Packs of feral dogs grew to fill the ecological gap. The risk of rabies also rose, said health experts. Now diclofenac has been approved for use in Italy and Spain.

“It defies common sense to approve of a drug when there is abundant, solid evidence to show that it is deadly to so many species of birds and that it causes such ecological damage,” said José Tavares, director of the Vulture Conservation Foundation. “We now know diclofenac was responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of vultures in India. Several species were brought to the brink of extinction in the process. Once the Indian government realised that, it banned diclofenac. That was in 2006. Now two countries in Europe have decided to give it the go-ahead. It is simply appalling.”

Dr Toby Galligan of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said: “It is utterly brainless to approve a drug which you know has killed tens of millions of birds in such a short space of time. Yet this is exactly what the Italian and Spanish governments have done. Based on some very, very poor risk assessments, they have given approval to an agent that could have devastating consequences for critically important large birds in Europe.” Galligan’s own research has found that diclofenac not only kills vultures but is also fatal to eagles of the genus Aquila whose members include the golden eagle and the Spanish imperial eagle. At present there are only about 300 pairs of imperial Spanish eagles left.

Most worries are focused on diclofenac’s probable impact on vultures, which play a critical ecological role by rapidly disposing of animal carcasses before they rot. “In Africa, vultures have been in severe decline for a long time,” said Tavares. “Then, in south Asia, we had the impact of diclofenac which has left the subcontinent with hardly any vultures.”

Europe is now the last refuge of Old World vultures. (New World vultures, including Andean and Californian condors, are made up of different species.)

A spokesman for the UK’s Veterinary Medicines Directorate said: “As a precautionary measure the VMD will not approve any requests from vets to import products containing diclofenac. Furthermore, we have agreed not to issue any export certificates which name diclofenac-containing products in the list of products to be exported.”

In a bid to persuade the EU to ban diclofenac, a petition – set up privately in the UK – has been signed by 28,000 people so far. It calls on the European commissioner for health, Tonio Borg, and the commissioner for the environment, Janez Potocnik, to intervene. This could be done by diclofenac being referred to the EU medicines agency, which could ultimately ban the drug.

Source: TheGuardian


Sometimes I just outrightly dispair at the sheer stupidity of man.

This is but one example.

When are we as a species going to get our act together?


Nature Ramble

Nature Ramble isn’t always about animals and birds, discoveries or threatened with extinction. It can also be about habitats, often these habitats are generally unknown by the majority, or are themselves under threat. Such is the case today.

One thinks of Spain, great wines, Basques and Catalonians vying for independence, failing economics and great beaches. But you rarely hear about the nature in Spain like you do about Africa or the Amazon.

Spain’s wetlands wonder is under threat for a second time in 16 years

Doñana national park, a haven filled with rare birds and wildlife, survived a toxic flood. Now tourism, an oil pipeline, demand for water and the return of mining have left it on a knife edge

Evening in Donana national park. Huelva province, Andalucia. Photograph: Alamy

The view from the visitors’ centre at the southern edge of Doñana national park is striking, to say the least. From its plate-glass windows, you gaze – over a small lake ringed with bulrushes – at a group of tamarisk bushes covered with squawking, screeching birdlife. Cattle egrets, night herons, purple herons and glossy ibis have made their homes here, while in the foreground flamingos and spoonbills wade gracefully through the shallow, reed-filled water.

This an ornithologist’s dream: 200,000 hectares of salt marsh of unrivalled importance to the birdlife of western Europe. Dozens of Britain’s most loved migratory birds, including house martins, swallows, cuckoos and warblers, find precious rest here on their annual migrations from Africa.For good measure, Doñana, a UN World Heritage Site, is home to some of Europe’s rarest birds, including the Spanish imperial eagle, while its mammalian inhabitants include the highly endangered Iberian lynx.

It is a glorious, vibrant landscape. Yet it exists on a knife-edge, a point brought home dramatically 16 years ago last week when almost two billion gallons of contaminated, highly acidic water, mixed with arsenic, cadmium and other waste metals, surged into the park from a dam that had burst its bank at Los Frailes mine 45km to the north, near the little town of Aznalcóllar. A toxic tsunami of mine tailings poured down the Guadiamar river and over its banks, leaving a thick crust of metallic crud over a vast stretch of parkland.

More than 25,000 kilos of dead fish were collected in the aftermath and nearly 2,000 adult birds, chicks, eggs and nests killed or destroyed. Even worse, the contamination persisted and many birds gave birth to deformed or dead chicks for several years.

It was Spain’s worst environmental disaster and the clean-up cost €90m (£74m). Suddenly aware of Doñana’s status as the nation’s most important natural site, Spain decided to spend a further €360m, some of it EU money, on restoring the landscape which, in the 1950s and 60s, had been drained in places to create rice and cotton fields. Some of this farmland is now being returned to its original wetland state.

It has been a costly but encouraging process. Yet the fate of Doñana still hangs in the balance thanks to the increasing pressures of modern life. An example is provided by local farms which, in a bid to provide western Europe with out-of-season fruit, have laid out endless ribbons of plastic arches in which they grow strawberries all year round. Strawberries drink a lot, however, and that has led farmers to pump up ground water – in many cases, illegally – and so lower the park’s critically important water table.

In addition, plans have been outlined to build an oil pipeline through Doñana, while other developers have announced proposals to expand local tourist resorts whose new hotels and golf courses would demand water supplies that would further erode the local table. Silt washed from nearby farms is also choking the channels that crisscross Doñana. The wetlands of Doñana are under threat of a death by drought.

However, the real body blow for conservationists has been the recent decision of the Andalucían government to reopen the Frailes mine which so very nearly destroyed Doñana in 1998. “This is Europe’s most precious bird sanctuary, both in terms of indigenous species and also as a resting place for birds that migrate between Africa and Britain and other parts of north-west Europe,” says Laurence Rose, of the RSPB. “Doñana already faces a great number of threats, but now they want to bring back the very cause of its near-undoing 16 years ago. It is extremely worrying.”

Having spent so much restoring Doñana to its past glories, it might seem strange that the local government should choose to announce that it wants mining companies to tender bids to rework Los Frailes. However, a brief examination of the state of the local economy provides an explanation. The crash of Spain’s banks five years ago hit the region catastrophically and unemployment in some parts of Andalucía is now more then 30%. Reopening the mine would provide more than 1,000 precious jobs.

Read more

Read more

Make you Fink on Friday

Do we really need this?

Fresh effort to clone extinct animal

Celia can now be seen at the reception centre of the National Park of Ordesa and Monte Perdido in Aragon

Scientists in Spain have received funding to test whether an extinct mountain goat can be cloned from preserved cells.

The bucardo became extinct in 2000, but cells from the last animal were frozen in liquid nitrogen.

In 2003, a cloned calf was brought to term but died a few minutes after birth.

Now, the scientists will test the viability of the female bucardo’s 14-year-old preserved cells.

The bucardo, or Pyrenean ibex, calf born through cloning was an historic event: the first “de-extinction”, in which a lost species or sub-species was resurrected.

Read more

Read more


Too much money and time is spent on this type of thing. The ibex is extinct, let her rest in peace. Obviously it became extinct for a reason.

There are more important things like world hunger, poverty, lack of education, health, etc that could make better use of these funds.

To me the idea of de-extincting is a backward step in evolution, what’s next? Jurrasic Park!


Nature Ramble

I’m a day late. Yesterday was family BBQ day and I didn’t get all my posting done.

Two stories today. One in Spain and the other in Scotland, connected

Lynx and Scottish wildcats.

How Spain saved the lynx

Spain’s impressive effort to save the lynx is an example to follow, but the UK needs to act swiftly

An Iberian lynx at a nature reserve in Spain. Photograph: Victor Fraile/Reuters/Corbis

If Scotland needs a lesson on how to save an endangered feline, it need only look to the little town of Santa Elena, in Andalucía, Spain. Biologists there have overseen a remarkable conservation enterprise: the Olivilla captive breeding centre for the Iberian lynx. Dozens of these distinctive, beautiful creatures have been bred here, watched over by staff working in a control room that has enough television monitors to do justice to a particle accelerator. This is cat care at its most sophisticated.

Adult lynxes, which are about a metre long and weigh around 10kg – twice the size of a wildcat – have been reintroduced to the surrounding hills. Ten years ago, there were fewer than 100 Iberian lynxes left on the planet. Habitat destruction, loss of prey and indiscriminate trapping by landowners was propelling Lynx pardinus towards extinction. Today there are at least 300 of them, and their numbers continue to rise. Call it the Lynx effect.

The implication is clear. Endangered felines can be saved – although we should be under no illusions about the cost involved. As lynx conservationists explained during my visit to Santa Elena, around £30m was spent setting up the project, money raised mostly by the Andalucían regional government, and which funds captive breeding and also pays for teams of energetic young conservationists to trap and release animals in areas around the town.

Read more: The Guardian

Extinction by stealth: how long can the Scottish wildcat survive?

The Scottish government has launched a £2m drive to save a unique species – but the plan is mere camouflage, say experts who fear the pure-bred animal’s days are numbered

The Scottish wildcat. There may be just 35 pure-bred animals in the wild. Photograph: David Tipling/Alamy

Are these the final few days of the Scottish wildcat, currently numbering perhaps as few as 35 scattered beasts? That is the fear of some supporters of Scotland’s most vivid species, and it is leading to an almighty row over a creature that has graced the Highlands for around 10,000 years. The argument relates to a deceptively simple question: when is a wildcat not a wildcat?

The wildcat’s imminent extinction may have been camouflaged from our consciousness by the existence of a counterfeit cat – a feline facsimile that looks like a wildcat but whose genealogy is far from pure. Staring implacably from the midst of rock and heather it will do for the postcards and tea-towels. And if it looks like a wildcat, then why should the rest of us worry about its lineage?

Read more: The Guardian




Nature Ramble

Last week we were off to the beach and had a look at sand dunes and plants, this week we are off to the mountains.

I consider myself to be pretty well aware of animals. I know that their are more than just elephants and tigers in the world, but I didn’t know we had the Desman.

“At first glimpse, it looks like a strange mish-mash of creatures – part rat, part mole, part platypus.” – BBC News

Pyrenean desman: On the trail of Europe’s weirdest beast

The BBC’s Rebecca Morelle joined scientist Dr Yolanda Melero on the trail of the Pyrenean desman

It’s the dead of night.

And while the rest of the world sleeps, a team of scientists is wading knee-deep through the fast-flowing streams that cut through the Pyrenees.

I’ve joined them on the trail of a creature that few have heard of and even less have set eyes on: the Pyrenean desman (Galemys pyrenaicus).

This small aquatic mammal only comes out under the cover of darkness. And it’s not easy to find.

Half-submerged in the dark waters lie several tube-shaped mesh traps; the hope is that a passing desman may have swum into one.

The researchers angle their head torches for a closer look. But most of the traps – apart from the odd trout that has sneaked in – prove empty.

Bizarre looks

The desman was once thought to be widespread across mountain ranges in France, Spain and Portugal.

But now Catalonia’s Alt Pirineu Natural Park is one of the last strongholds for this species.

The Pyrenean desman is one of the very last in an evolutionary line

And eventually, we strike lucky: inside one of the traps, a glint of grey catches in the beam of a torch.

As the researchers gently remove the creature from the stream, I’m able to take a look at the odd little mammal.

At first glimpse, it looks like a strange mish-mash of creatures – part rat, part mole, part platypus.

It’s about the size of a hamster, with a glossy grey coat.

It has a huge nose – like a miniature version of an elephant’s trunk – framed with long whiskers and beady little eyes. Its front paws are tiny, but its back feet are huge – and webbed. It’s topped off by a thick, scaly tail.

“It is such a special creature – it really is one of Europe’s strangest creatures,” says Dr Yolanda Melero, who is based at the University of Aberdeen but is working with the University of Barcelona to carry out desman research.

“It’s very well adapted to its environment: it is a very good swimmer.

Finding out more about the desman is the key to saving it, the researchers say.


Read more

Make you Fink on Friday

This is absurd

I fail to see it…

At a time when the prices of food are rising beyond the means of ordinary folk Spain holds the Tomatina festival in Buñol where 120,000kgs of tomatoes are wasted by 40,000 people.

While here in Brazil the shortage of tomatoes has risen more than six times their normal price.

This is apparently fun.

This is also apparently fun

Not only this…

In Italy, the Ivrea Orange Festival is a similar absurdity.

“In the small northern Italian town of Ivrea, the Battle of the Oranges Festival is held every year during a three-day carnival leading up to Lent. Nearly 3,000 people gather in the piazzas of this village of just under 25,000 people. Orange-throwing is said to represent the battle against an oppressive emperor in the 12th century.”World’s Weirdest Festivals
Even the Americans do it.

“The Empire Asparagus Festival in Empire, Mich., is dedicated entirely to this perennial vegetable. Michigan is one of the top asparagus producers in the U.S.”World’s Weirdest Festivals

I fail to see the funny side of this when we have a world full of hungry people.

Maybe, I am just a boring old fart.

Nature Ramble

Iberian lynx returns to the wild in Spain

Rebecca Morelle joined the Lynx Life team as they released the cats into the wild

Excitement ripples through the crowd that has gathered to catch a rare glimpse of the world’s most endangered cat.

With its lustrous, spotted coat, kohl-rimmed eyes and tufted ears, the Iberian lynx would not look out of place in Africa or Asia. But this is Europe’s big cat.

And the lynx that dozens of people have come out to see today could be the key to saving this species.

The cat was once widespread across Spain and Portugal. But in 2005, its numbers plummeted to just 150, earning it the unenviable title of being the most threatened of the world’s 36 wild cat species.

One of the key factors in this animal’s catastrophic decline was the loss of its main food source: rabbits, which were wiped out by disease.

Habitat destruction has also been a major problem for the lynx.

The situation was so desperate that conservationists in Spain were forced to take radical action: removing some of the cats from the wild and putting them into captivity to breed, in an attempt to boost numbers.

Miguel Simon, director of the Lynx Life project, said: “The situation was really dramatic: there were only two populations left in the wild.

“In order to preserve this species, we had to create a captive population in case the wild population became extinct.”

New home

Understanding the reproductive behaviour of these shy and solitary cats has not been easy.

But over the past five years, breeding centres in Jaen and the Donana National Park, both in Andalucia, have been extremely successful and there are now around 100 cats in captivity.

In 2005, numbers of Iberian lynx plummeted to just 150, but breeding schemes have been a success

And in the wild, thanks to work to enhance the felines’ habitat, numbers are up too – the population has grown to 300 cats.

With this double success, conservationists are ready to put the next part of their rescue plan into action: releasing captive-born lynx into the wild.

Dr Simon said: “The Iberian lynx is a key species in the Mediterranean ecosystem. It is a top predator, and if we preserve this species, we are preserving the whole ecosystem.

“It is our heritage, and we have to preserve it for future generations.”

Lynx Life has carefully selected an area in Sierra Morena for the animals’ new home.

The habitat is perfectly suited to the felines: it is a hilly, forested region, packed with shade for the cats to sleep in when the fierce Spanish Sun becomes unbearably hot.

Most importantly, though, there are plenty of rabbits – without them, the lynx cannot survive.

Today, a large group of people have arrived to see how the cats respond to their new home. They are excited at the rare prospect of a positive news story for this beleaguered animal.

Three young captive-born cats from La Olivilla breeding centre in Juan have been selected for the release.

Source: BBC News Read more

One of the most endangered big cats in the world. If it were to go extinct, it would be the first big cat species to do so since the saber-toothed tiger, 10,000 years ago

Today, I learned something…

The Mediterranean has wetlands.

I didn’t know that before.

If you mention to me ‘the Mediterranian’, I conjure up images of tourism, sun, olive trees and the Biblical lands. I would never have associated the Mediterranean with wetlands.

Mediterranian Wetlands

Lots of them, dotted around everywhere; Lakes, lagoons, dams and river deltas. 570,000,000 hectares – roughly 6% of the Earth’s land surface

You want to see the diversity, check TOUR DU VALAT

And, they’re in trouble…

Protection ‘vital for Mediterranean’s wetlands’

Thymio Pappayannis on how wetlands in the Mediterranean have changed

Urgent government action is the only thing that can stem the crisis facing the Mediterranean’s wetlands.

That was the message from a recent meeting convened to discuss how best to protect these increasingly vulnerable ecosystems.

Mangroves, reed beds, peat bogs, ponds, river banks, swamps, marshes all fall under the heading of wetlands.

Under the umbrella of the Mediterranean Wetlands Initiative (MedWet), more than 350 specialists from countries in the region came together in Agadir, Morocco, to discuss the challenges facing these unique ecosystems.

They were drawn from a daunting range of disciplines: there were bird watchers, eel specialists, forestry commissioners, marine biologists and environmentalists present at the symposium.

Their discussions centred on refining old strategies and developing new ways of conserving wetlands.

With more than 50% of the Mediterranean’s wetlands lost over the last century, Laurent Chazee, the co-ordinator of a report published during the symposium, say he wants governments to wake-up, stressing the need for urgent action.

“It is no longer enough to leave the fight to environmentalists,” he says.

“Governments must get involved and policies have to be more clearly thought through. If not, whole areas of countries to the south of the Mediterranean will be de-populated as people move away in search of water.”

In addition to increasing population, intensive agriculture, tourism pressures and climate change, new and as yet unquantified changes are having an impact on wetlands.

Source: BBC News Read more

An example:

Wadi Rum in Jordan.

Black Iris, Jordan's national flower

Wadi Rum is a protected environment. Rare species of animals, small plants, and herbs can be found by the inquisitive traveler. Red anemones, poppies and the striking black iris, Jordan’s national flower, all grow at will by the roadside and in more quiet reaches. Herbal medicinal cures used for centuries by the Bedouins are found in the mountainous regions.

Wadi Rum is also a bird-watchers’ haven with its 110 recorded species. Vultures, buzzards, eagles and sparrows are a few to be seen by those looking skyward. Other interesting creatures to be found include the camel-spider, feared by local Bedouins for its ability to harm camels, however this spider is not dangerous to man.

Seen gracefully in its natural habitat, the Ibex, mountain goat, is often spotted in the desert terrain. Another interesting animals are the Gray Wolf, Blandford’s Fox, and the Arabian Sand Cat which is similar in appearance to a domesticated cat and survives in its harsh desert surroundings.


Who ever knew about this? I am amazed. Source: Atlas


The Ebro Delta

Natural water wells at the Ebro Delta - an interesting freshwater habitat typical of Spanish Mediterranean coastal plains close to karstic countryside where underground water overflows. (Photo: Anna Motis)

The Ebro Delta is one of the major river deltas of the Mediterranean Basin. It covers an area of 320km2 and consists of a typical delta platform extending 30km into the Mediterranean. The main surface of the delta is covered by agricultural land, and most natural areas are located along the edges, behind large natural beaches and sand dunes.

Because the Ebro Delta is heavily populated compared to other Mediterranean wetlands, the area is intensively utilized. There are very few areas where the natural resources are not exploited. In most of the delta, agriculture is the main activity and this includes intensive rice production covering 21,500ha and in some areas other crops such as lettuce, tomato, and melon. In a couple of relatively small areas, there is some extensive cattle ranching allowing the development of interesting habitats. Fishing is very important both in the lagoons, river and surrounding sea. Shellfish production is also remarkable in the enclosed bays of La Banya and El Fangar. Source: Ramsar

Species never imagined…

The wetland surrounding the Dead Sea supports endangered species such as ibex, hyrax and even a few Arabian leopards.

Source: WWF

Iberian lynx

Source: WWF

Blue Swamp Hen

Albufera Marshland, Mallorca

Other species include ospreys, turtledoves, night herons, scops owls, hoopoes, black-winged stilts, Kentish plovers, glossy ibis, spoonbills, bee-eaters, purple gallunule, great reed warblers, flamingos, and the purple swamp hen (pictured above). Not to mention species that are fairly rare elsewhere in Europe, such as the black vulture, Eleonora’s falcon, Audouin’s gull, the moustached warbler, and Marmora’s warbler.

Source: BlueBay

Treasured habitat ... a flock of flamingos feeding in the Carmargue, France. Photograph: Alamy

Source: The Guardian

Ox Eye, Wadi Rum, Jordan

Source: Atlas


Plants, animals, reptiles, insects all inhabit the wetlands, the same as anywhere in the world. They are a part of our heritage and like everything else on the planet we are slowly but surely destroying them.

Many of the wetlands featured in this post are in European lands that are suffering from the global financial meltdown, or in lands where political strife is endemic. The governments are more interested in saving banks than flora and fauna.

The natural elements of this world, the beauty and majesty are not on the lists of priorities.

Are we doomed to totally destroy the beauty of our little blue ball in space?

When you consider the importance that this 3rd Rock from the Sun plays in the larger plan of the cosmos, it’s probably not too important, but for us, humanity, it is our home; it is all we have…

There is no Planet B.

%d bloggers like this: