SHARE
COPY LINK

ENVIRONMENT

Spanish brown bear wanders across border into Portugal, the first in 175 years

The first brown bear sighting in Portugal in more than a century was confirmed by wildlife experts on Thursday, after reports of an animal in the northeast of the country.

Spanish brown bear wanders across border into Portugal, the first in 175 years
Stock photo of a Cantabrian brown bear. Photo: neusitas Flickr / Creative Commons.

The bear, which most likely belongs to a population living in the western Cantabrian Mountains in northern Spain, is thought to have wandered across the border.

“The reappearance of individuals from this species in Portugal… has now been confirmed by the ICNF,” the Portuguese Institute for Conservation of Nature and Forests (ICNF) said.

Brown bears have been extinct in Portugal since the 19th century.   

“The last reports of a stable presence of brown bears in Portugal are between the 18th and the end of the 19th century. They then died out,” the ICNF said.

The animal was spotted in the Montesinho Natural Park and Braganca commune in northeastern Portugal. 

 

The town of Bragance is about 20 kilometres (12 miles) from the Spanish border. 

Media reports say the last living bear in Portugal was killed in 1843 in the northwest mountainous region of Geres.   

“The fact that a bear has crossed our border does not mean that there is a bear established in Portugal. At the moment we have a stray animal,” said Paulo Caetano, an author of a book on bears, on Portuguese radio.   

The animal is probably a young male looking for “a peaceful territory, a companion and food,” he said.   

The bear population in the Cantabrian mountain range, which extends east to west over four Spanish regions, has been increasing since the 1989 adoption of a relocation plan.

In 2018, some 330 bears were counted in the mountains there, according to the environmentalist foundation Oso Pardo.

READ ALSO: IN PICS: Eight of Spain's most endangered species

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

ENVIRONMENT

Police operation targets illegal water tapping in Spain

More than 130 people were arrested or placed under investigation for illegal water tapping last year, Spain’s Guardia Civil police said on Wednesday following a huge operation.

Police said most of their operations took place “in fragile and vulnerable areas such as the Doñana natural park”
Police said most of their operations took place “in fragile and vulnerable areas such as the Doñana natural park” in Andalusia. Photo: CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP

During the year-long operation, “133 people were arrested or investigated for extracting water through more than 1,533 illegal infrastructure devices”, the police’s environmental unit said in a statement.

A similar operation in 2019 had targeted 107 people.

Spain is one of the European countries most at risk from the impact of drought caused by global warming, scientists say.

Water usage issues are often at the heart of heated political debates in Spain where intensive agriculture plays an important role in the economy.

Police said most of their operations took place “in fragile and vulnerable areas such as the Doñana natural park” in the southern Andalusia region, one of Europe’s largest wetlands and a Unesco World Heritage bird sanctuary.

They were also operating in “in the basins of Spain’s main rivers”.

In Doñana, police targeted 14 people and 12 companies for the illegal tapping of water for irrigation, a police spokesman said.

Ecologists regularly raise the alarm about the drying up of marshes and lagoons in the area, pointing the finger at nearby plantations, notably growing strawberries, which are irrigated by illegally-dug wells.

“The overexploitation of certain aquifers for many reasons, mainly economic, constitutes a serious threat to our environment,” the Guardia Civil said.

The European Court of Justice rapped Spain over the knuckles in June for its inaction in the face of illegal water extraction in Donana which covers more than 100,000 hectares (250,000 acres) and is home to more than 4,000 species, including the critically endangered Iberian lynx.

According to the government’s last official estimate, which dates back to 2006, there were more than half a million illegal wells in use.

But in a 2018 study, Greenpeace estimated there were twice as many, calculating that the quantity of stolen water was equivalent to that used by 118 million people — two-and-a-half times the population of Spain.

Spanish NGO SEO/Birdlife also on Wednesday raised the alarm about the “worrying” state of Spain’s wetlands.

SHOW COMMENTS