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WILDLIFE

Is there a black panther prowling around a small village in southern Spain?

Residents of a small town in the province of Granada in southern Spain have been warned to be on their guard after reports that a large black panther was on the loose.

Is there a black panther prowling around a small village in southern Spain?
File photo of a black panther: AFP

Authorities in the town of Ventas de Huelma, a pueblo of 600 people situated 25 km south west of Granada, issued the warning after several residents reported seeing a “black panther” on the outskirts of the town on Friday evening.

Luis Miguel Ortiz, the mayor of Ventas de Huelma, informed local residents that the sighting was being taken seriously.

The town hall posted a notice on its Facebook page urging vigilance and informing the public that a search had been launched by Seprona, the wildlife unit of the Civil Guard.

But on Sunday despite an extensive search being carried out by officers on the ground as well as a helicopter scrambled to search from the air, no trace was found of the animal.

“We have statements from people saying they have seen the animal, but we have not found a single trace of it,” said a spokesperson from the Civil Guard on Sunday.

In an interview with local paper Ideal, Álvaro Aguado was very clear about what he saw: “It was a panther,  a very large feline with a long tail,” he said explaining that he and his wife were out walking his dog. “My wife saw it first and said ‘Look it’s a panther’, and I looked through the binoculars and yes it was. I went back on Saturday and saw it again in the same place.”

He tried to take a snap of the animal with his mobile phone but the resulting image was nothing more than a blur.

 

 

 

 

However on Monday, reports emerged that a Seprona team had discovered what could be a footprint of a cat the size of a panther and were waiting for analysis to confirm whether it was so.

And in an update from the town hall it was claimed a Civil Protection Officer had spotted what he thought might be the panther “on the road in the direction of Agron”.

On Monday, a bar owner in the town of Escúzar, located around 6km from the first sighting reported “hearing roars”, according to a report in Ideal.

On Tuesday afternoon there was another update. “At 2pm, a resident in the town of Ventas de Huelma reported seeing the animal just 20 metres from his vehicle near the Cortijo de Noniles, between Ácula and Chimeneas,” said an update from the town hall.

“The Seprona team is already in the area trying to locate the animal. They have identified footprints made by the panther.”

The update ended with a sinister warning: ” We strongly urge extreme caution, under no circumstances go out to have a look or play detective. It is very dangerous. This animal can kill! “

??? ÚLTIMA HORA??? Queremos informar que sobre las 14h, un vecino de Ventas de Huelma, asegura haber visto la Pantera a…

Posted by Ayto Ventas de Huelma y Ácula on Tuesday, 15 September 2020

The team preparing is preparing to continue the search at dusk and into the night using thermal cameras when such animals become more active.

Seprona did confirm that they have no reports of an escaped panther or indeed any record of such an animal being held within the region.

Panthers are a protected species and would require a special licence to be kept in a private zoo, but there have been instances of people keeping such animals without the required paperwork.

In 2016, a black panther was found by Seprona officers being kept illegally at a rural property in the province of Almería. 

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ENVIRONMENT

Spain’s Alicante aims to limit hiking and ban outdoor sports in iconic nature spots

Environmental authorities in the Spanish region of Valencia want to limit hiking and ban rockclimbing and canyoning in popular retreats in Alicante, Valencia and Castellón provinces to preserve these natural habitats and their local species.

Hiking in Valencia might be banned.
Barranc de l'Infern in Alicante province. Photo: Diana TV/Flickr

The Valencian region’s Climate Emergency Department is planning to establish several Special Conservation Zones in popular natural spots in the eastern region, where climbing and canyoning will be prohibited and hiking will be limited.

If the new rule comes into force, it will affect a large portion of the province of Alicante, including popular retreats in nature such as the Barranc de l’Infern river and its hiking route, Puigcampana and Ponoig, one of the best-known climbing spots in the region.

So far, the project is just a proposal, but it has already angered mountain-sport lovers and businesses throughout the region. 

Canyoning and climbing are considered “incompatible” practices with the preservation of natural habitats, according to the first draft of the new decree.

As well as banning these two popular sports, the new rule proposes that hiking in groups of more than 30 people will have to undergo prior evaluation.

Hiking in Puigcampana, Valencia. Image: NH53 / Flickr

The objective of the Department of Climatic Emergency is to extend this new rule and the creation of the ZECs to all the natural spaces included in the Natura 2000 Network within the Valencian Community.

The regulations of the European Union on these sites imply that they must guarantee the preservation of species of fauna and flora. 

For example, in the Special Conservation Zone (known as a ZEC) de la Marina, the decree states that species such as otter, river crab and Cobitis paludica fish will be protected, while the mountains in the centre of Alicante, it’s Bonelli’s eagle, the trumpeter bullfinch and the eagle owl, which must be protected. 

However, according to sources of Las Provincias news site, the European legislation does not prohibit climbing, canyoning and hiking from being carried out within them.

The new proposal has taken many groups by surprise as they were not told of the new proposal beforehand, and are unaware of what the economic and social implications will be.

The President of the Federation of Sports in the Mountains and Climbing in the Community (Muntanya i Escalada de la Comunitat) Carlos Ferrís, pointed out that “the preservation of the environment does not have to be incompatible with these sports” and said that the limitations are not justified by any scientific report.

Hiking in Ponoig, Valencia. Image: Lisa Risager / Flickr

Pedro Carrasco, manager of CV Activa, an association that brings together companies who target active tourism agreed, when he told Las Provincias: “They would have to do a detailed study of each and every place to assess the conditions. It cannot be based on intuition alone”.

These rural tourism businesses do however agree that there can be some limitations on the practice of these sports, but that they shouldn’t be prohibited year round.

READ ALSO: REVEALED: The most picturesque day trips in Spain’s Alicante province

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