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.
- The Campanarios de Azaba and Faia Brava reserve are pilot areas from which the rewilding process started and took shape.
- Both NGOs were 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. These areas are now in a transition from traditional farming and traditional ways of biodiversity management, more over to rewilding approaches and rewilding enterprise development. This can be seen in the reserves, where on one hand trees were being planted until recently, while on the other hand large herbivores are being introduced and nature tourism development is encouraged.
- In Western Iberia an important change happened in 2014, where Associação Transumância e Natureza (ATN), our main rewilding Partner on the Portuguese side, became our local rewilding partner organisation after just after summer. After more than three years, the working relationship with FNYH in Spain was ended because of different views of the partnership.
- Rewilding on the Portuguese side will focus on the Côa Valley, which has been explored in detail and where, during a joint visit by the central team and the local team in November 2014, new boundaries of the rewilding area and the priority areas were agreed. Also, pilot sites for natural grazing, wildlife reintroductions and connected enterprise activities were identified.
- 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 2014, the Tauros breeding sites saw a further growth: in Spain (with 14 Sayaguesa cows) and Portugal (with 12 Maronesa cows). An exchange of bulls between the two breeding sites took place within the breeding programme for the Tauros.
- In Faia Brava, 400 ha of no-hunting area agreed with hunting association, and the reserve extended with purchase of 200 ha. A further 500 ha will become part of the reserve after an agreement with Côa valley archeological park. A total of 1 100 hectares now under control.
- Agreement with University of Aveiro for feasibility studies on reintroduction of red deer, Iberian ibex and roe deer in the Côa Valley. Decisions on this by the national authorities are expected in 2015.
- A total of 47 Retuerta horses, 47 Garrano horses, 13 Sayaguesa cows and 7 Maronesa cows have been released, to bring back natural grazing in the two reserves (including partial fencing and internal de-fencing measures). Both NGOs work on a LIFE project approved for the period 2013 to 2017. 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.
The expert Gonçalo Appleton has selected a new herd of Garrano horses for the new pilot sites, expected in 2015. A new stretch of fence will increase the surface available for grazing in Faia Brava reserve by some 200 hectares.
- During 2014, further indications of wolf presence were discovered in the area, which was witness to a spontaneous recolonisation of the species in the region.
- There was a beautiful sighting of a Spanish Imperial eagle in Campanarios de Azaba reserve on 14 March 2014, which was the first in many years. This is a spectacular bird species that we hope will start breeding in the area within a number of years.
- 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.
- The preparations for the building the ‘Faia Brava Star Camp’ have been finalised, the first prototype of accommodation is underway and the building permits have been requested. For the ‘Rewilding Flycamp’ – a mobile tented camp – materials have been received and negotiations with different partners are under way to broaden the spectrum of activities linked with the Fly Camp, as part of the tourism package.
- Specific loan agreements under REC were developed to support the set up if these new rewilding enterprises. Both the Faia Brava Star Camp and the Fly Camp will become operational in 2015.
- The first Erasmus Intensive programme “European Wilderness Entrepreneurship” took place in Western Iberia in April, 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).
- The Western Iberia rewilding initiative was presented to the “Iberian Wolf seminar” in Almeida, Portugal and SPPF (Portuguese society of pasture land) spring meeting.
- 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.
- There was good media attention for the rewilding area, both through visits of international and Spanish journalists.
- A group of students, participating in the Erasmus Programme for Wilderness Entrepreneurship visited the area in April 2014. A final symposium was held in the Netherlands in June, to close this phase of the European Nature Entrepreneur.