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Armchair Travel with Naturetrek
Armchair Travel with Naturetrek

Episode 6 · 1 year ago

Conserving Iberian Wolves and Lynx in Spain, with Byron Palacios

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Tour Leader Byron Palacios has been leading Naturetrek tours for over 15 years, and in this podcast, we talk conservation on the Iberian peninsula, as Byron tells us about the thrill of searching for Iberian Wolves and Lynx in Spain.

Nature Trade podcasts, bringing wildlife to you in your living room. In this episode we're talking conservation on the Iberian Peninsula. As totally the Byron Palacios tells us about the thrill of searching for Iberian Wolves and links in Spain. Hello and welcome to another nature trek podcast. Now joining me today is Byron, who's an Ecuadorian ecologist and field ornithologist who's been leading for nature treck for over fifteen years. He's an excellent burder with a vast knowledge of the NEOTROPIC column Western Palearctic Avifauna and his contributed a number of important discoveries to Ecuador in Ornithology, all of which have been published in scientific magazines. He's also actively involved in many birding and conservation programs in Spain and is an authority on Iberian Wildlife, which is what he's going to be talking to us about today. He's joining me on the line now from his home in Dorset. Byron, hello, welcome, how are you? Thank you. Well, very, very well, and lockdown. Actually, how could it be enjoining a lot of the wildlife around for the quietness. So yeah, so far, so good, so far, so good, and well, so yeah, but also, you know, really look, really looking forward to be out backing action, you know, traveling around. So hooked up. Happens soon, aren't we all? Definitely the I should have been out in Baja in March and would be off the sink Kildo in July. So, yes, what to us would you have been leading Byron? Well, it's mainly the Americas, you know. That's which is my local patch, being from from South America originally, and obviously Spain and the bit the Eastern Europe as well. So that's that's my current patch really, and Spain is in fact, really the area that you're going to be talking to us about today and specifically to species that are quite close to your hearts, and these are the Iberian Wolf and Iberian links. And the first of all, can you just give us an overview of where this actually is situated, or what is the Iberian Peninsula? What's meant by this? Yes, we know generally, as as as Britain's that when you bring to your mind Spain, you know, you automatically think of Costa Braba, custor, of soul, the sunshining and the sunshine and beaches. But actually, you know, we don't. We forget. Even even people into wildlife tend to forget the Spain located in you in Peninsula which compens Portugal as well as the little stripe on the West. But they actually a very isolated area geographically. This is what makes things great and interesting, because House, the peering is obviously isolate, Spain and Portugal, being Biberian, peninsul itself in a completely different let's say, I mean England island, if you could want to call it that way, and hence the different organisms have developed into their own. I mean we have, Gosh, we have Ibran macpies, you know, formally call as your wing macpie. We have Spanish imperial legal, we have Ibori and chiff chaff. We have, you know, pretty much subspecies as well on the a bran peninsula. And you know, mammals, mammals wise, we have Iberian Wolf and Iberian links. This latter one, you know, happened to be one of the rarest cats in the world, which was really about to disappear in the late s. So this is what you know make Spain and your Bering Peninsula are quite unique...

...within Europe. Okay, and you leader too, is there to see both those species wolves and links. Can you start off us with the wolves and give us an overview of the Iberian Wolf? When most people think of a wolf, they think of what is going to be a great wolf, the we're familiar with, of course, in North America. So how is the Iberian Wolf Different? Can you tell us a bit of about it? It's yeah, so, instance, behavior, Habitat. Yeah, completely, completely, after these isolation. I was talking about this trapped population of lynks is in the AM and the geographically trapped in the Abyan peninsula, you know, evolved according to the habitat is is is a mountainous you know, habitat up in the mountains, can tapping mountains, the foothills of the Pyrenees, and then you have all the plateau, you know, across the northern foothills, Midlands and the south, with a lot of Sierras for mountain chains along, which creates microhabitats. Now, although three or four of the main habitats in Spain, particularly or Indivir in peninsula, are quite unchangeable in terms of they keep quite unique throughout the year. The mountains provide a very good viration, of of of temperature, perfect for these animals. Now your involves particularly evolved in size. Firstly, they're slightly smaller than than then European Gray Wolves and also junk your Muscar, because they move. They move in, you know, in mountainous areas, so they developed more the muscular bodies and and in order to keep these very local gene, you know, the flowing their packs number and parts are really small. You know, we found up to eleven individuals per pack, unlike great wolves that they leave up to twenty or twenty two or even twenty five, it is the case of the North American one. So yeah, that's one of the main main changes. The second one is their diets. The diets are really specialized, between red beer and wild board. A lot of people think that they go on they are mainly but I think, I think, and and based on evidence and a road of droppings and things, is mainly wild boar that they at then, and there's plenty, which is plenty of across the peninsulent. And also how secretive they are. They really vary. They they're there way of living according to the season. So during the winters when they're most active and they are hunting the most, there's a lot of builder of prey during the winters. Some some of the Spanish northern winters in the mountains are the hardest in Europe, you know, with temperatures that we're in, down to minus thirty and a Lord of snow, and they move. They move quite confidantly in this kind of weather. Now, these way of leaving have put them on sort of, I wouldn't say verge of distinction. But the problems with with the actual, I bewn wealth at the moment is it's where. Where do they actually spread? Their territories could go. I mean one terry to could spreading two hundred and fifty square kilometers. But the importance, importance of the Alpha male and the dominant female, of a female in order to keep the pack successful,...

...in order to to control the numbers, is part of an important this is what people need to understand. They they packs, I will will limited geographically. So it will be really it's not like one pack produces youngsters and then these youngsters will split and form another pag it's it's more complex than that. They probably take up to five years, or five generations, I would say, to for that pack to produce an Alpha, potentially off a male. The willing take their own pack independently to another area unless they the Alpha male is being replaced. You can put it like this. So, hence the amount of numbers as well. I mean we take the most sort of approximate figure of the of the estimate amount of wolves in Debremphonese. That moment they are just bordering the two thousand being the north of Spain, the main area for them to live come, covering mountains mainly. Now, what is their main threats? Well, you know, wolves being being for centuries or even in fairy tales, being completely stigmatized because it's the big bad wolf, you know. And but this mainly in reality, it's mainly because they're so well organized, such a intelligent organisms that they tend to think like us, that they complete directly with human beings and what we were trying to to to do a thing for decades. I mean I didn't know when was there the last wolf killed in in the UK? Fourteen Century, fifteen century? But it was because of that reason, because we thought they're always bad in the wilds, causing damage to toward they they is food for us as well. I mean they go after livestock. We like after stock as well, and it's it's now an economic income for farmers and revenue for this places where they occord. Now they have to be controlled, unfortunately, and this is part of the conservation sort of programs been taking by the you in India, beer in pinnings at the moment. So the legislation allowed to control, will control the population in the Northern Bank of the River Doue, and the one in the southern bank is untouchable. But this is mainly due to a lot of politically interest as well, and it's also to protect to keep the farm, the farming or the cow ranging of livestock business going. Now, having said that, there's very little evidence of attacks who you know, Iberian Wolves to livestock. I mean I could point it pointed out, based on the two thousand and eighteen results from the soprano, the right environmental sponge police, that after thirty, or bunch of thirty, five reports by farmers from from life to being killed by wolves. But you know, allegedly three of them were actually young wolves that that actually kill last off. The others were fake. Sound. How are they being faked? Well, farmers. Obviously they will never agreed with the with the protection all the laws. So it's so difficult to to they have to prove and they when they want to claim or make a claim of a life stood close by a by Wolf, and that's obviously scientific. Is Not like the old data say, Oh, they killed me three, so I'm going to charge compensation for three at the end of the year.

It's not like that. It's more complex now. The Soprano police sent especially, you need to actually do a very comprehensive research or investigation about the size of the bite, the the size of of the you know, of all the evidence they collect and they could be shout some some accurate results. And, as I said, hence that the is very low. And and and also the other reason is unless it's a very, you know, submissive Alfa, the sorry, I so miss I I mail is being thrown down from the from the pack, and it's just meandering around. Young they're more adventures than than at individuals because they're more so that they mean they clever, they don't know, not going to go where where there are now nowadays they're the farmers and shepherds are more sophisticated with machinery, with with for by four tracks and all the stuff they're not going to get close to them, firstly because you know that's that means danger, that beans, that the lines going to be a risk, and also because they had plenty of food. They have plenty of food in the wild, plenty of wild war, plenty of deer. So it's really little reasons for them to go and attack. And this has been proved by many, many people who dedicate the master study of Youreing Wolves, and he's been he's been proved. Yeah, you see, you see stories of this in conservation, don't you? Just all over the world, and I used to be a wildlife guide up in the Hebrides and there are similar stories with the reintroduction, I realize these wolves haven't been reintroduced, but with the reintroductions of the white tailed eagles up there and the clashes that they had with sheep farmers and sheep farmers accused them of taking the lads and Snh would compensate the farmers for any lands that were taken. But when you weigh this up, the cost of a lam the market value of a lamb is is anywhere between sort of fifty two two a hundred pounds. And when you now see what the actual income value of tourism to see white tailed eagles is and what that brings to the economy. According to the RSPV website, this brings in five million pounds on more alone every year and over two million pounds a year on either. And you do have to sort of be sensible with it and trying way of that. It's an unfortunate thing in conservation that's to protect a species they need to be made more valuable alive than dead, which is what the white tailed eagles have done and and that's sort of red success story. Really, do you see similar perceptions of being taken on board with with the wolves? What is the perception that love goes? Clearly the farmers don't really like the what you pick up on when you're taking our groups there and traveling to see the walls is it? Do you think? Do you think you could tourism is helping them? is they're going to play a good role in protecting them? Well, it could. Rest you could. Resting has been a terrific, terrific tool for conservation, not just towards wildlife like the important while and key while lower if your own wolves, but for the locals that they really noticed that in the last fifteen years we've been doing there or or you know, or even more than that, we have brought that interest, you know, to say hey, Holland, the second this could be one of one of the main revenues that you could have instead of, you know, getting rid of them. Now. The most important thing of the process, I think, has has been that we can set to them, you know, while you're in the wild and when you meet up, you know, with a shepherd, the farmer, you do tell them that there's no need to be against them. You know there is a control. There is a control that some of the counties in in Spain are,...

...you know, quite good at. Some of them get some revenue by biting hunters to give five or six wolves a year. Some others, you know, there's a dedicated the group of Rangers that that monitor them and they know which one to taking word to control numbers and both things. As I say, so far I've been working together really well. It is being is trying to reach that balance that I think we are sort of on top. The problem now is the poaching, and this is why, you know, the environmental police skip this is working really hard towards this. Now the other thing that benefits the wolves indirectly. It's especially in the areas of occurrence of the Cantabian Brown bear, is these animal itself because they are protected, strictly protected brown bears in Spain and they do share habitat the overlap. They don't compete because, you know, Brown bears are omnivorous. They could go and cart because during the winter some of them don't really hybernet over there. But they're not direct competitors with wolves. But the protection of Brown bear actually have benefited the the statues of Iber and wolves. But, as you said, people are understanding way more, specially the locals and farmers, including farmers and shepherds. They understanding importance of keeping a wolf also for their for their genetic beneficial of the of their the prey. You know. Why boors, you know, and also the type of the year down there does do benefit for having a natural Predator to the genetic values better there. Hence the grass, the habitat and meadows. So it's you know, when you liven't understand today is I said look, you have now this meadow. See it. It's incredibly high quality for your cattle. But that's because to the walls. But if you're not, because they keep that improvement of the of the of the genetic value on everything, which also goes to the to the to the animals, which are done in the lowest, lowest bite of the of the trophic chain. And this is how, you know, I think we getting to that point in the sort of Aber view of this topic now, whether Wolf are going to be always a problem. Unfortunately, so far you know that that is going to be always a topic of quite a polemic. I was going to say, because it while doing what we have done, you know, increasing the the ecotourism down there by taking our groups to see this these amazing animals, a lot of the locals are doing exactly the same thing which twenty years ago wouldn't happen. Not even twenty ten years ago didn't happen. Yeah, of course what you've just said is very reminiscent of the best wellknown example of this is, of course, in Yellowstone National Park, where in the s and the Rangers of the park that was decided that they want to kill all of the wolves so that they could increase the population of ungulates for hunting. So in by one thousand nine hundred and thirty six, all of the wolves there were killed and slowly but surely, they got exactly what they wanted, all of the young Gullets, the movest, the deer, the elk just grew exponentially and it's slowly began to destroy the park. You know, they were browsing on too many saplings and trees, so beavers there therefore had no trees and branches to actually be able to make their dams with to store water. This meant that there was actually wildfires across the park and the...

...herds were very large, of the the deer and the elk, but they were an unhealthy herds. They had all the elderly in the sick which, of course, the wolves take, don't that's what they prey upon, the dupery upon the very fit species, and a lot of animals started to leave the park. But they reintroduced them in in one thousand nine hundred and ninety five and within one year species that hadn't been seen there in sixty years were returning. The songs, but songbirds were returning, and now they the park is is very healthy and this just underpins how they really are a keystones. Yeah, in environment. If you take them out, the ecosystem will collapse. Yeah, and obviously rentaduction man astrument work completely different. It's, I think we could be in the in the long term, more difficult than controlling native populations, in this case the appearing wolf. But indeed today they, you know, proved everything, and not only that in terms of conservation. They will see when we started leading trips down or taking trips down to these areas, which I incredibly remote areas in Spain where people still thinking in pesseettas rather than in euros. They, you know, there were no they were really hard to find a place to stay, but after all the years being operating there, there's plenty now because they know, they had noticed that the economical benefit they have found from the activity we have promoted. I mean a lot of places. I think, apart from the French guy who started doing wolf trips in Spain, we were the pioneering nature trip really pioneered these activity which, as I said, has brunt a lot of us, a lot of benefit for the for the those local villages and so those local areas and individual businesses that we use a Gud, such as accommodationtality you know, food, local supermarkets, everything and people. People actually see that and they said what a minute. As I said the earlier on, this is working in his benefiting and lets be honest. Let's be honest. In order to jump on the cats, I think conservation, and I know people don't consider these, but conservation sometimes a bit cruel. We have to take a bit of something to actually keep that something going. So controlling the numbers of Abuan wolves would keep these balance. We need the balance they need and we also avoiding the future. This this house, you know, problems with the species if they go out of our hands, because that is the way I think, as as very intelligent animals we are, that's the way to to control and keep them going, still in the wilds, in natural way, but, you know, in their vast because they have vast terrectors to all around that without clashing one to eat with each other, you know, and just benefit both from them. And what about the the presses perception of ECO tourism is that today, share the the public expeuse you just highlighted that there are more accommodations now that they have been in years, more places to eat, more places to go and spend your money, which is what the nature trick to a and no doing. Is this reflected in the medium? It has repropting a lot now, a lot of the medium, obviously, and this is we going back again what I said, what I said about the Contubian Brown bear, because they're protected and because there's an interest of the local counties to...

...go and to these areas to support their welcoming in thelematic animal for a lot of the villages in the areas that these animal cord. But that has brought, indirectly, as broke, great benefit as well for the wolves. Now the press could be at times a bit realistic, but also others could be really more on the side of the fiction rather than on the on the actual reality, which you know what I mean. Is it's it could mislead the local with some information. We have tackled them, you know, I remember having more than two or three articles in the local press down there. But and also just tour three newspapers have published the wrong thing, you know, by US disturbing the US being their affecting the wilet, when we're say no, we're doing completely the opposite, you know. But you need to and actually invited them to to you know, I stopped giving them chance over the phone or interview yourself. Just come with us, you know, and see yourself and then you write. So as I think. So they're actually saying that you're disturbing the worlds. So they're always clicking it from the conservation wolves point of view, rather than saying you shouldn't be here glorifying seeing these walls, these are something to be deemed as a past and we should kill them exactly, which is completely the wrong the wrong idea of and this is what I said. I mean people wildwise have this sort of huge cup of that unfortunately falls on the on ignorance, you know, and if you want to write about something, you need to know about it and you need to go and see it yourself, an experience at yourself. So this journalist I remember, I took over. Their perspective was completely changed. They said that I didn't imagine was like this, but so there we go. So you are actually sat there very quietly in spot. The wolves are five hundred meters away in your there with your telescope. They they probably know some clever animals and they probably know you were there. But you're not disturbing yeah, you're not. I mean they wouldn't be there if you've been disturbing, because this is what people don't you know, you don't know much about cannon, especially a wolf, which is a very, very intelligent animal. They wouldn't just simply wouldn't be there, they wouldn't be there. So I'm always hoping that every time, every year that passes and we successfully see this animal thriving in nature, especially in a in a in a country, and talking mainly about Spain, because Portugal it's not really that involved, and in the both conservation as the main populations in Spain that, despite the problems and and certain issues that they're still facing with a local governments, the population is thriving, not just because we are there contributing to this, but also because the locals mentality have changed. We made that change and whoever goes there to do it and to show them that this is what they need to protect, this is what they need to handle as their natural treasure handle appropriately. That's that's how they're going to keep everything, everything flourishing and in the right place. And when you say, and we say we have changed the meaning nature track and running the tours, there are tourists or tourists as a whole, well, while of tourism in general. I mean we started going pioneer in some areas that nobody,...

...not even locals, have gone and now we have other companies, you know, following the same the same steps, or other countries as well, organizing, organizing, you know, the same kind of tourism. You can tourism adventures down there as well. So no matter who you're going with, you know, the matter who's going there to do it, but as long as they are, you know, supporting the cause, in supporting and standing the way of life of this of the animals, you know, that's the perception that the locals will will learning, will have sort from you. So so, yeah, I really hope this keeps going. So far I will say so good, so very well. That's well. That's great to hear. And you outline the conservation of the worlds. What is it actually like to be on too with you? I'm thinking of a more immersive description of what is actually like when you're when you're going at there. You is there a lot of time spens trying to track them and find them? Are you out in the in the cold, up in the mountains that you actually you're sitting on a hill with a scope looking for them. We could our clients expect from working on a tour with you? Well, firstly, is the is the birth rate? That the breathtaking habits at your end. You know, you go to this amazing areas, completely remote, you know, right in the middle of nowhere. You barely see a human and sometimes, you know, we are, you know, sat in the top of this beautiful heel scan for wolves and suddenly, all the while of turn up, maybe they or hot gos, cope the old Golden Eagle, and then carry on, you know, watching weals. Sometimes we're lucky, you know, we hear them howling, we hear them always see them really active or the youngsters playing each other. Sometimes they're not. You know, we have to come back and try it aga another time, but it's just a breathtaking habitat you're surrounded with pure and sometimes you think said, Oh my God, am I in Europe? Yes, I'm in Europe, you know. So it's I think it's a it's a whole package of everything, really, Sarah, not just the wolf themselves, that they are the main target, that other different, interesting, very interesting wildlife, habitats, you know, happyets and little villages. You know people because we always have the old break to take a cafe after very basy morning, early morning. You know, working hard for to see all this, this wonderful animals and and and, as I said, all that. You Know Habitat Roman ex churches, you know of this historic or prehistoric even even features. Everything together is an amazing package that you get there and you at the end of the tour, you hear client saying, Oh my God, I thought we this was going to be like this, but I didn't even know. But put the wolves aside, they said, a part for the wolves. I didn't even know. It's going to see and learn such a, you know, amount of new things, and this is what we experience in every single over trips. No, so, yeah, keep your eye on there. I would about you, love to join you on one of those trips. I think I've been watching wolves in yellowstone before, which is fantastic, but to do it in Europe would be pretty special, I think, closer and also it's very challenging just to finish with them. It's just so. It's also very challenging because they are real wild, wild you know your your expectations. You're a trending. When you see one and when you see a group it's amazing. I mean, as I said, sometimes we are lucky to see them for ordering hours, sometimes which is have a glimpse one crossing for half of the minute. But this is what made them amazing, how they move. And also it's it's a...

...huge, huge, huge, huge result after working so hard, you get to see great views of them. So I think it's that's the big reward and the job paid off really. So absolutely, you want to move slightly south, right, yeah, so, so, yeah, it's let's leave the mountains. The picture were the wolves are completely different than the picture of the net next lovely animal. We're going to talk about the viearring links and it's very different and I think is worth starting with this. And the main that main different is because the fact of the gearing links is are very well protected, changed completely dramatically the panorama of the conservation towards this species. Now, if we do so, I bearring links in numbers, we have to think that, you know, towards the end of the nineteen century, of the beginning of the twenty century, you know early one nineteen hundreds, the population of links was quite spread from the Midlands, plateau, you know, foothills of Sierras, of this mountain change, local mountain change, down to the south. Now we have to consider here from many, many reasons the population demise hugely because down towards the one thousand nine hundred and thirty five or even the s a population was relatively still healthy. But it was a massive shock from the s onwards. And yet one of the reasons because they were hunted at the time, specially in Andalucia. But the main reason, I think the sole reason why ring links is decline so so to the edge of extinction. It was mainly because of their diet rabbits. Having said that, the benefits, you know, in then mix species sometimes involved to you know, a habitat that you will say, well, they're the only one here, they have no competitors and what's going on? Well, they that. The problem with some, some native species, is that they can go so specialized. The specialize quite on something, and this is the case of Iberian linkses. They have specialized and rabbits and ones that suffering and going they go alongside rabbits in their varying pennings for that. Well, the very well spread in the invert from the foothills down to the plateaus and planes, but they struggle with many deseases. Next and MITOSIS. You have learned, we have rabies and that rabies came with her with a new set back in the in the beginning of the year two thousands, where, you know, again the population of rabbits decline massively, so that left the lynxes with no food. And this is why the population was so geographical limited down to the south, because because that was the the area. You know, all the specifically all the the Western southwestern annually sea as you were talking about on Yana and the mountains of nor eastern a Ulysia, completely completely wiped off from rabbits, and that's what the population started to suffer to the point that they were down to eighty three individuals, like thirty eight pairs reported, and the main population was...

...up in the mountains. The work that the scientist and the local governments together and now with the with the EU, have done have put the all the efforts there, the put on on the gearing linkses Gosh, went from Gosh, no, it's not going to work to yes, it is working, you know, and but I took them, took them a while. We took them a good ten years, of fifteen years to see results. So it was a real long term result project. But, as a said, it was worth it. And the very first thing they target wasn't really the bearing links things itself as a species, but but the rabbits food. The target that as a main strategy to to to bring healthy rabbits back to the wild, keep control, holding them, keep controlling populations, you know, distributing populations of healthy rabbits and certain areas, checking new population of rabbits and certain other areas. That links is a court and that work quite well and still working. I mean they the efforts will never stop. And then, obviously, in order to rainforce the population of the LYNXES, they brought down some some of the species from the mountains down to the lowlands, which is particulately on Yana, and they made this mixed in the in the reproduction program they make this mixture between both the ones in the mountain linkses and the ones in the in the in the lowland bearing linkses, you know, and that sort of exchange because with this themising, you know, the genetic value of the of the cat will starting to get affected, and particularly in the population down in the in the lowlands, they were not thriving at all. There were really weak and they were, for no reason, just getting quite ill and developing, you know, problems to keep them going. So combined in the sex of population of the mountains with the lowlands, they created this this mixed pattern as we call them, because the pattern of their bearing links in the in the mountains is very thin spots, whereas the one down in the lowlands are really thick. So now sometimes, yeah, you can see and obviously the ones in the mountains, they are the male special and more mustly because they climb boulders, they climb uphills. You know where it's down in the lowlands, which is walk around the endering, around dunes or the Hassas, which are meadows with Corkos, you know, all flat. So that mixture created a very, very good genetic value, or added a very great en to value to the animals that they start driving like crazy. Now the population, I think I told you the other day after the European big cat documentary lunge and BBC, and last winter, I think I was just monitoring up to five hundred or sort of the population nowadays, but they throw a number of over seven hundred, which is great and it's it's what is known, so that it's a great, great hope of the species is always going to be endangered. Don't forget that. And thennek wildlife at Sert at a certain stand is always going to be endangered because they could decline overnight. So for a big cat, well, we considered the wearing links within all this...

...is quite small, much, much more than the Eurasian or boreal links, but we still consider a complex because of its complexity. We still consider when the group of big cats, but for a cat like this to thriving in the environment I was it was nearly, you know, pushing them to the end of of life, to extinction. It's amazing. It's amazing and and you know, thanks to the efforts of of the of all this links rescue program and now with the life project as well, which is injecting a lot of resources in it. Now, they had stopped now doing reintroductions because the instroductions cost a lot of money. But I think once a population start, you know, succeeding towards the level that a lot of the calculations, the numbers were where, you know, made before, you know, during the planning of the of the project. I think introductions are a bit redundant if you say that. Now. Whether you're trying to do is is reintroduce links has in areas outside and you the seea where they occurred before. But again they're starting from zero, because that was five years ago. They started releasing or retroducing some individuals in castill and Mauncha and extra mydora and also some areas and something portable. But, as I said, in order to see result of how that population are going to thrive, we need to it's this question of time. It's question of time. So now we need to focus in the population. We have in in and you to see and the corridor is created between the lowland population and the mountain population, but that's still facing a bit of threats. I'm going to talk to you later on, but is there, is there is done and they they have doing they have been doing it quite well. I've been look quite well and it's it's amazing to think that this is gone from being an almost mythical species one of the rarest cats in the world to being something that we can really viably operated to to go and see it. In fact, nat to treat with the first operators to set up to us to go and see the Iberian links, and now we're the position where we're able to run these two us with a good success rage of seeing and bringing valuable income into the local economy to accommodations, restaurants, cafes and has the public? How is the public perception of the links? Is it is it better than the walls, because there isn't that clash with with farmers, the people of people happy to have them in the local area. Yeah, I mean, as I said, you know, the fact of they being protected by the law changes everything. But not only that, cats and there's no exception of you know, feelines, no section of the being links. They just mind their own business, they just need their habitat their food and of they go. They don't really affect anybody, they don't compete with us. They actually likes because they feel comfited and safe around us. In fact, the amount when when we pioneer Iberian tours and and by the way, we are the only company who actually do both of the locations, you know, within the corridor because mainly some others just go to sea Morena, but we do both and that enhances the chances to see them,...

...but also enhances the chances of, you know, for or or customers to to comprehend the two different habitats, comprehend why links is in the lowlands and why the Lynks is up in the mountains. have in you know, exchange. How important is to keep keep going that exchange of genetic value, which suddenly stopped when the with the with the population was to the edge of extinction. So, apart from that, it's incredibly important to understand that. And obviously he's being a big benefit to the locals and local hospitality business and and ECO tourism in general has benefited to to it has brought all this this benefit from this activity. And what is it like being on to with you looking for these links? Same questions as I asked You with the wolves. Is it is it quite challenging? Again? Yeah, again. You know, it's the great the great part, I always say, of joining these tours is that nothing is written, nothing is guaranteed. You know, yes, we have a good rate of successful sightings and everything, but even for me, which I've seen bounces of wolves, thousands of links has even for me, that's like the first time. You know, you go there, there's a challenge said. You don't know what's happening because you know is never the same, never the same. You learn every time you go there. How did they behave? How did they turn up? Where are they going to turn out? How they're going to turn up and what sort of chances are they going to give us to see them? Now you know again you keep that that sort of bug, that the electrifying book, you know, around the group, around the fellow travels, saying, Gosh, we'll have to do it, will do it, let's keep doing sometimes as tedious, you know, keep looking and looking and looking, but you never get bored because there's some again, completely different habitats, beautiful, beautiful picture as habitats and landscapes and and another wildlife, you know, beautiful while of him. When we are down there in in the autumn, you know, we always catch up with the wintering migratory species, the ones they're living, the ones who are actually arriving to spend the winter down there and then up in the mountains. You know, the completely different perspective of of Habitat, different animals, more and then exact Spanish Ibex for example. plentyful of Iberian Mac pies, more Spanish, Spanish impure legals, scenarios, vultures, Gosh there. I mean the list goes and goes and goes. and seeing places like Dunana and the contrast the later on in the tripe when we up in the mountains, it's just mind blowing. Wow, and you must have many examples, but do you have one particular memory of watching and Iberian thinks that really stands out for it? Was it the first time you saw one, or has it been in the several years you've been guiding there? Well, to be honest, I can't even recall the first one I saw. How the circumstances away, because you get so excited that that just instead of keeping that memory something, it just goes by in back of your subconscious I don't know, it's just lost in my brain, but I do have treasure in my, you know, my mind. A lot of the sighting, especially the ones, I always say, the ones that actually is not just simple animal walking out of the Bush and but that interaction when you're about to and I remember once...

...we were, you know, working really hard with really hard and we were on their last ten minutes of the trip out there. So about to get dark and you're there with people, you don't want to let them down. And suddenly, when we are back to pack up and go, and when I was about to say I'm sorry, guys, didn't work this time, suddenly something movement was caught by the corner of my eye and it was this young male going out after your rabbit, but he was competing with another male that happened to be after the same rabbit. So that gave is a amazing show. was quite memory actually, and and just just ten minutes we were about to give up. I could recall that one as one of the best. But but, as I said, every time we're going because one of the one of the main signs of the species doing well is because every every year after year, after season after season, we seen them more and more and more, we hear them more and more and more and, as I said, there's nothing, nothing is guaranteed in wildlife. Might be the othercation. We have gone empty handed, but we know they they're we know that the chances we have. You know, our knowledge to got a limit and then is all down to them, from them. But every time, you know, we go, we learned more about these animals and that's important in order to increase the chances to see them. But this we have a fantastic rate and these animals, vay said, are protected, so presumably they don't face a huge pressure from being short or persecuted by people. Or what are the greatest threats? That what is their number one mortality rate? Brutality cause, I think, until the sea being undually see. Are quite a populated area, despite they have vast vast amount of mountains and mountain reaches and Sea Morena being wine, very inspitable, very remote, which really which is some points of serum are in a really hard to access. I think the the the threats that hearing links his face nowadays are the food. Their life depends of how rabbits do. So part of the consideration program do focus a lot on keeping the rabbit population healthy and also making endless research on many individuals. You know, if they found that individuals, they just try to to look at the cause of that. It was natural, was natural, but a rabbit just don't die just just of heart attack in the middle of the nowhere. There's something behind. So they the working really, really well to tackle this in order to improve the amount of source of food of the links, I mean links. Can they have all the things in the menu like red leg path which, for example, they'll be another role, or jade, you know, any other big birds? But they're remembered. They are. They are specialized on rabbits and and that that made them lazy. Some species are in danger because they are either a bit silly or stupid, or because they said, I just did this, I'm sorry, and just cross our arms and do nothing. A lot of species and then make species. I like that, believe you or not. In terms of birds, I remember when I was doing a lot of reason for the year red book, the data dangerous species. Eighty percent of the species, the person that book,...

...were endangered because they were stupid. You know, they didn't. They didn't pursue them different food. They and now my foot is is I specialize in this and if there's nothing there in my plate, I sorry, I'm not not going to work for other food. But in the case of linkses, you know, they do. They do. The pends they do depends a lot in in you know, on their main source of food, which is rabbit now, and that's, as I said, it's been keeping up quite well. So the species are thriving in that respect, but they always keep an eye on that. I think that the very sad course which is reality now and is causing a lot of the damage to the population is road kills. I remember I was quite shock in two thousand and seventeen when they got to report of seventeen to eighteen ib ring links killed and roads. And this is only because a lot of the territories, you know, cats move a lot and especially young males could be really menacing. Just move around a lot without keeping one virtual territory to to meandering in. These are the good ones to you know, they're not really, as I said, the very confident cats they're likely to be. They see human beings as friends because they're not under thread at all and that put them in the being that confident is also is a is a is a double edge sword. You know. They just go to areas they hear a car and they don't take any precautions. Across the road in band and they are now building underpasses, aren't? It's to go into these highways that these not really working. And well, there are a lot of passages and tunnels and wildlife crossings, you know, but not in every single key areas. And this is the I think that one of the saddest thing and frustrating things for the for the conservationist or people are working the in the links conservation program is that those animals skilled in those areas. They were found their bodies, but you know, their animals that are wearing known because they're wearing monitored. It's really hard to monitor all that vast area. But the good thing is after that happened they have taken different measurements and they have built tunnels or crossing pads and those areas or they had blocked the access to those roads better. So they that that obliged the whole force the links is to move along in cross using the tunnel. So a lot of improvements that have been done in that sort of firm in that sort of respect. But you know, as I said before and then, the animals were always going to be endangered because of that fact they they're and you know they are endangered because their endemics. But being an endemic comes down to a price and and this is this is, you know, keeping your right food up, keeping your territory up, and obviously the rest come from us as humans to help them out to thrive. And just if you can answer in more or two sentences of each which you think the future is for the links and the walls in Spain. I think it's very positive. I think it's very positive again, with a lot of hecups and this hypo key cups don't really come to, you know, threats that they could find in the wild but could come. Believe you are not from the administration. You Know County Council's...

...distribution the money, distributing certain laws and certain penalties. Poaching still a problem, not as much as in the north with a BA in links are being wolves, but poaching is always going to be a problem in Spain. So about as I said, it's the soprano environmental police is doing a great job of working really hard, being in order to protect them, being tough with rules and everything. But I think there's more positives than negative. So I think their population, as we have seen in these last fifteen years, have been being operating or tours down there. You know, just giving example the the rate of we were we started doing this. It was so hard to see one. Now I wouldn't say these easy, still hard, but you can see that there are more numbers, the numbers have been praised, that the habitat has improved and you know, everything has changed for or having proved and he's still improving dramatically, dramatically. Well, that's very good here and very much looking forward to resuming our tours there when as soon as we can. And just to finish by and just to take a step back from the wolves and the links and look at Spain as a whole and the public perception on wildlife there. Do you feel like it's changed since your involvements of leading to us there in Spain of the last fifteen years? Have we are? We seeing a phasing out of a bull fighting generation and it's a potential for a new wave of passionate your naturalists. There's a growing in Spain. It has changed. Yeah, it has. Things in the last fifteen years we've been operating these tours, you have changed a lot. I wouldn't say well, both fighting. It's more cultural thing that actually yeah, new generations are stopping by the that that's going to keep going, but is it's if you compare will fighting fans from twenty years ago to now? Yeah, it's more than half that gone, but mainly the hunting, bait hunting, I would say it's it could be what have changed a lot. A lot of the hunters general, new generations respect more these and then you can threat animals like linkses and their mentality have been more educated. You see what I mean? A lot of the threats in terms of coming from the from the locals, mainly over from the population. It's because of England. So when you educate them more, they're they're considered more that facts and they see this not just the fact of going there and hunt and make a big, big bro Hunting in the field where and endanger anymore if your ownings leave. Now I think, yes, the perception of people have seen these have changed a lot. They're less hunter efficionados are the less bull fighting. I of future nows. I mean I a lot of the I remember when we used to go to these areas, you know, there was nobody. There was literally us. Now it's just it's just a lot of people. You know, I think I count to eighty people are standing where. They're just staying in the road she's trying to take a lot of links. So, yeah, he has changed a lot, a lot in he's going to continue with that. Well, that's great to hear, and more they it continue to go in the right direction like that and have more people involved in wildlife. But it's been absolutely fantastic to talk to you. I've really enjoyed sitting here listening to you...

...telling us all about the endemic Iberian wolf and links. I certainly know where it's on my my hit list for as soon as I can get out of out of the UK and go traveling again. It's time. It's a joining. Any time, any time great. Well, thanks very much for speaking to us. Yeah, thank you and thanks for your attention. I'Ming I could. I could carry on ages here chatting about it, but thank you very much for your interest and I hope the R people in or followers have found these very interesting as well. To join borrowing on a tour. You can see his upcoming trips on his profile on our website, along with more podcasts from our tour leaders for you to listen to, the links to which she displayed on your screen now. Thanks for listening.

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