Achievements to date
Western Iberia became active as a rewilding area in late 2012
Our local partner ATN in Portugal and our previous partner (FNYH in Spain) have been buying land for a number of years, so they have secured land tenure with own properties already (at this stage nearly 1 300 hectares) creating the Campanarios de Azaba and Faia Brava reserves. Currently, our work is focusing on Côa Valley, of which Faia Brava is part and where ATN is our main partner.
- Faia Brava reserve is the pilot areas where the rewilding process started and is taking shape. ATN was working in the area already before the rewilding initiative, but previously in more traditional ways, however, through their nomination they showed interest in the rewilding concept. This area is now in a transition from traditional farming and traditional ways of biodiversity management, more over to rewilding approaches and rewilding enterprise development.
- Rewilding focus on the Côa Valley, where Faia Brava reserve is located. New priority areas were agreed in 2014 and new pilots for natural grazing, wildlife reintroductions and connected enterprise activities are starting in Middle Côa valley.
- Agreement signed with the Taurus Foundation to begin breeding of Tauros in Faia Brava and Campanarios de Azaba, starting with two cow breeds, Sayaguesa and Maronesa. In 2015, the Tauros breeding sites saw a further growth: in Spain (with 35 Sayaguesa cows) and Portugal (with 27 Maronesa cows).
- In Faia Brava, 400 ha of no-hunting area agreed with hunting association, and the reserve extended with purchase of 200 ha. A total of 1,000 hectares now under control, for the first time in both sides of Côa river.
- A feasibility study on reintroduction of roe deer, red deer and Iberian ibex in the Côa Valley was prepared by the University of Aveiro. Nevertheless, it is unclear when will the permits to begin the reintroductions be issued by the national authorities.
- A total of 87 Garrano horses, 35 Sayaguesa cows and 27 Maronesa cows graze in the two reserves (including partial fencing and internal de-fencing measures). The existing herd of 45 Garrano horses living in the Faia Brava reserve was added to the European Wildlife Bank. Through this, the herd will be under the temporary ownership of ATN to graze the Faia Brava reserve but also the surrounding areas in the Côa Valley and other areas in the Western Iberia rewilding area.
- In the new part of Faia Brava reserve (200 hectares at the opposite riverbank), a new natural grazing project has started with small herds of semi-wild Garrano horses (15 individuals) and Maronesa cows (8 individuals).
- During 2015, further indications of wolf presence were discovered in the area, which was witness to a spontaneous recolonisation of the species in the region.
- Agreement with 10 tourism companies to advertise nature activities in Faia Brava.
- One of the two first of loans of Rewilding Europe Capital was received by the excellent Casa Cisterna – a guesthouse in a village close to the Faia Brava reserve in Portugal, which is actively involved in hosting and guiding visitors in the reserve and in the wider Côa valley rewilding area. The loan was issued to complete an extension to this boutique-style bed and breakfast.
- The ‘Grand Route of the Côa Valley’ is a marked trail of 200 kilometres that connects the source of the Côa to the river mouth in the Dauro River. In this area, the Côa River meanders across fertile plains and rocky slopes, tracing its path towards the Douro River, uncovering a valley of immense archaeological, cultural and natural heritage. The Grand Route was officially launched in October 2014 and is designed for walkers, cyclists and horse riders. For a territory suffering from depopulation, it is a great opportunity for entrepreneurs to develop new tourist products based on the natural environment.
- New specific accommodations to enjoy the wilderness have been developed in Faia Brava. The Star Camp is a new concept of accommodation, a simple and imaginative camp beautifully located in the middle of the reserve. It is a lodge composed by tree wooden, safari-style units, perfectly integrated in the landscape, made only with local materials, with a minimalist design that provides comfort. The Faia Brava Star Camp is operated by local entrepreneurs and is technically, financially and promotionally supported by Rewilding Europe.
- A different concept of accommodation are our pioneering Rewilding tented camps. The aim is to provide a flexible, adventurous and comfortable experience in some of Europe’s most remote areas using equipment refined over years of use in Africa. One tented camp, financed by REC, will be operational from August 2016 in Western Iberia.
- The first Erasmus Intensive programme “European Wilderness Entrepreneurship” took place in Western Iberia in April 2015, with the participation of 30 students and 15 lecturers/researchers from six countries.
- A TV show about the Western Iberia rewilding area was produced and broadcasted in the Dutch Postcode Lottery programme in The Netherlands.
- Strong media work with Spanish language media during the outdoor exhibition in Madrid in 2012, and during wildlife releases during 2012–2013.
- The success of the Western Iberia rewilding area became a showcase in the documentary “Rewilding Europe – the case of Western Iberia” (Wageningen University and I camera you production).
- WILD10, the World Wilderness Congress, was carried out in Salamanca in 2014, which brought strong attention to Western Iberia from Spanish, Portuguese and other European media. 60 delegates from WILD10 also witnessed the release of the second herd Retuertas horses spending a full day in the reserve, seeing also hundreds of griffon vultures, black vultures, black kites and red kites.
- The Grand Route of the Côa Valley (GRVC) website was launched in 2015.