Did you say Iberian Wilderness? Most people would agree that there is plenty of wilderness and wildlife in Latin America. But what about the Iberian wilderness?
Yes, that’s right, Spain and Portugal have significant wilderness dotted with wildlife.
Ancient beasts still roam Spain’s wilderness. This has a real potential to have real impact on that culture and economy.
When most people think of Portugal and Spain, they think of Lisbon, Madrid, Barcelona, Granada, or perhaps the Balearic or Canary Islands where a civilized population live the city life with all of its great advantages of art and night life.
Now, contrast that with a Iberian Peninsula that offers some of the last areas of wilderness left in continental Europe today.
The Iberian wilderness offers a wide sprinkling of wildlife. For example, the Retuerta is the oldest breed of horse in Europe and it runs wild in the Doñana national park in the province of Cádiz. There are now only around 150 of them left. The Spanish government transported several north to Salamanca and set them free in the Campanarios de Azaba reserve. This is one of many attempts to repopulate the Spanish countryside with wildlife.
Unlike most native horse breeds, there are no known cases of Retuertas bred privately, and even if caught – which is extremely difficult – breaking them for riding, driving or working the fields is nearly an impossible due to their feisty character.
The horse’s coarse appearance, poor conformation and intractable nature means they’re usually considered inferior species. But now most experts accept their true value.
Spain’s natural mosaic-like landscape is untamed because of the current decline in livestock farming. Fewer animals consume pasture.
The “rewilding” initiative received a boost from the abandonment of farm and ranch land in Western Iberia.
Wild and free wildlife roam among the domestic fauna and are an essential part of preserving and conserving that wilderness.
There are many species scattered among the wild fauna like the Iberian Wolf (Canis Lupus Signatus), Hedgehog (Erinaceus Europaeus), Iberian Lynx (Lynx Pardinus Saliega), and the Spanish Imperial Eagle.
This Iberian Wilderness contributes to projects like “Rewilding Europe.” The “Rewilding Europe” mission states that:
”Rewilding Europe wants to make Europe a wilder place, with much more space for wildlife, wilderness and natural processes. Bringing back the variety of life for us all to enjoy and exploring new ways for people to earn a fair living from the wild”
The Rewilding Europe initiative defines “rewilding” as:
“Rewilding ensures natural processes and wild species to play a much more prominent role in the land- and seascapes, meaning that after initial support, nature is allowed to take more care of itself. Rewilding helps landscapes become wilder, whilst also providing opportunities for modern society to reconnect with such wilder places for the benefit of all life.”
The “Rewilding of Europe” is one cause of economic opportunities sorely needed in western Iberian Peninsula.
For example ecotourism is on the rise, albeit slowly.
But, there are constraints of economic infrastructure and marketing to get the message out about this overlooked natural resource.
In many ways, we in the U.S.A. are lucky on a number of wilderness preservation points.
The unique combination of a unified continent, naturalist visionaries, and political leadership of the 19th and 20th century like President Teddy Roosevelt created wilderness areas that future generations can enjoy.
Obviously, the continent of Europe doesn’t have the “manifest destiny” experience of the U.S.A. Political considerations of borders and lack of cooperation have been ancient obstacles.
But fortunately today, the vision of natural open wilderness in Europe is alive.
Both the U.K. and Europe have entrepreneurs that are ready to invest, but the political structure is challenging on both the local and national level.
The challenge to the local populace in western Iberia is significant.
First, making the area known to the rest of the world as a wilderness/nature ecotourism area takes concerted effort.
Second, the task of attracting and keeping residents working there with sustainable employment to develop the area is daunting.
Third, investment needed in infrastructure and marketing the area is serious challenge given the current economic circumstances.
Here’s a video that gives you an overview of these opportunities and challenges in Western Iberia along the border of Portugal and Spain.