Amigos de la Tierra / Friends of the Earth Spain

Working to save the European mink and the Iberian wolf

Juan Donaire Merino has been working on environmental protection the La Rioja region of northern Spain for the last 17 years. One of his main concerns has been the preservation and protection of the region’s important biodiversity, which has diminished in recent decades with the European mink and the Iberian wolf particularly under threat.

La Rioja is home to one of the last populations of the European mink. Until around a century ago its distribution extended from northern Spain to the Urals. Now, they find themselves confined to La Rioja and its environs because of the destruction their native habitats and the presence of the larger, invasive American mink.

The Iberian wolf, endemic to northern Spain and Portugal, is under threat throughout the north of Spain. It is now beginning to recover slightly and expand its territories, including in the La Rioja region.

Juan has been involved in campaigns to support both species. A number of campaigns designed to raise public awareness about the risk of the immediate extinction of the European mink have been run, which included financing a documentary about the mink’s precarious situation. At the moment the situation is extremely delicate, but Juan and his colleagues at Amigos de la Tierra / Friends of the Earth Spain are working with other conservation organisations and interested community groups to ensure that it does not disappear.

Juan has helped spearhead various campaigns denouncing the extermination of Iberian wolf, and making the Spanish public aware of the urgent need to conserve it. This has been reinforced by other actions such as arranging a series of conferences with experts on the subject, and filing a complaint with the District Attorney that has stopped the regional government’s attempts to put pressure on this species.

In both cases, the battle is not yet won. The work must continue towards the conservation of both species, which undoubtedly would result in major benefits to the wider ecosystems in the region.

“People refer to nature in an idyllic way but unless a wide variety of animal species exist, such as the European mink and the Iberian wolf, rural and non-urban areas would be incomplete. Our work on biodiversity endeavours to maintain the natural balance of the environment. That’s why it’s necessary to recover and protect these species if we want genuinely natural living spaces.”JUAN DONAIRE MERINO

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