IN PICS: Eight of Spain’s most endangered species

Spain is home to some of the most varied wildlife in Europe. From the brown bears of the Pyrenees to the cave-dwelling bearded vulture, Spain’s range of topographies allows for a vast assortment of indigenous animals.

IN PICS: Eight of Spain's most endangered species
Photo: Iberlince

As the UN publishes a report warning that up to 1 million plant and animal species are on the verge of extinction, with alarming implications for human survival, The Local takes a look at those animals most at risk in Spain.

Many of these iconic species are, however, severely threatened by human activities such as poaching, pollution and habitat destruction. The Local takes a look at the worst affected:

Iberian Lynx

Photo: AFP

With a population estimated at around 600, the dark spotted Iberian Lynx (Lynx pardinus) is the world’s most endangered feline species. At the turn of the 20th century its numbers were estimated to exceed 100,000, but by 2002 it was on the brink of extinction, when less than 100 lynx were found to be left roaming the hills of Southern Spain. The conservation efforts of various NGOs and the Spanish government have however ensured a steady growth in the species over the last fifteen years.

READ MORE: Endangered Iberian lynx found living in hills near Barcelona

Black stork

Photo: SEO Birdlife

Recognisable by its black plumage and striking red beak, the Black Stork (Ciconia nigra) is found in low numbers all over the planet. European populations migrate to Sub-Saharan Africa in the winter and during the summer an estimated 470 pairs can be found in Spain, a large proportion of which are found in the north of Extremadura. They are threatened, however, by both illegal hunting and habitat loss due to construction projects.

Brown bear

Photo: AFP

A little over 250 brown bears (Ursus Arctos) are to be found in the Cantabrian mountains and the Pyrenees of Spain. Their once thriving population was severely diminished in the mid-twentieth century by factors such as hunting and a need to protect farm animals, but their population is now thought to be on the up, the Cantabrian Brown Bear Foundation finding a “positive trend”in its last census in 2016.

Cantabrian Capercaillie

Found in the mountains and forests of northwest Spain, the Cantabrian Capercaillie – Tetrao urogallus cantabricus – is a species of grouse that is threatened by a rapid decline in suitable habitats, illegal hunting and disease – its population is thought to have fallen to around 625.

Bearded vulture

Like the Iberian Lynx, the bearded vulture is an endangered species specific to the Iberian Peninsula. It’s a large bird of prey that feeds on the bones of dead animals, and around 200 are distributed among the peaks and caves of the Pyrenees. In addition to poaching and habitat loss, threats to the bearded vulture are compounded by the ingestion of poisons used in bait by hunters and electrocution as a result of power lines in the area.

Mediterranean Monk Seal

Photo: IUCN redlist

Pollution, over-fishing and discarded plastic have all contributed to making the Mediterranean Monk Seal (Monachus Monachus) one of the world’s rarest mammals, its population thought to have been reduced by 60 percent since the mid-twentieth century – there are around 400 left in the Mediterranean.

El Hierro giant lizard

Photo: ElHierroTourismo / Flickr

About 200 giant lizards (Gallotia Simonyi) are estimated to live around the cliffs of El Hierro, one of the Canary Islands. Despite being subject to reintroduction programmes on other Canary islands such as Tenerife, poaching and predation from other animals, pose a significant threat to the iconic species’continued survival.

Iberian imperial eagle

Photo: SEO Birdlife

The majestic Iberian imperial eagle has been made vulnerable by dwindling food sources, human interference and, like the bearded vulture, electrocution from power lines. The greatest number of the species can be found in Doñana National Park, where the Spanish NGO BirdLife has recorded an increase in successful reproduction, indicating a cautious optimism for the future of the great bird.

By Rory Jones

READ MORE: Spain set for summer cockroach plague after unusually wet spring 


Norwegian battery start-up Freyr demands subsidies to complete factory

The Freyr battery start-up has halted construction of its Giga Arctic factory and demanded additional government subsidies, Norway's state broadcaster NRK has reported.

Norwegian battery start-up Freyr demands subsidies to complete factory

Jan Arve Haugan, the company’s operations director, told the broadcaster that the company would not order any more equipment until Norway’s government committed to further subsidies. 

“We are holding back further orders for prefabricated steel and concrete pending clarification on further progress,” he said. “We are keen to move forward, but we have to respect that there is a political process going on, and we have expectations that words will be put into action.” 

Freyr in April 2019 announced its plans to build the 17 billion kroner Giga Arctic in Mo i Rana, and has so far received 4 billion kroner in loans and loan guarantees from the Norwegian government. It has already started construction and hopes to complete the build by 2024-2025. 

Haugan said that the enormous subsidies for green industry in the Inflation Reduction Act voted through in the US in 2022 had changed the playing field for companies like Freyr, meaning Norway would need to increase the level of subsidies if the project was to be viable. 

Freyr in December announced plans for Giga America, a $1.3bn facility which it plans to build in Coweta, Georgia.   

“What the Americans have done, which is completely exceptional, is to provide very solid support for the renewable industry,” Haugen said. “This changes the framework conditions for a company like Freyr, and we have to take that into account.” 

Jan Christian Vestre, Norway’s industry minister, said that the government was looking at what actions to take to counter the impact of the Inflation Reduction Act, but said he was unwilling to get drawn into a subsidy battle with the US. 

“The government is working on how to upgrade our instruments and I hope that we will have further clarifications towards the summer,” he said.

“We are not going to imitate the Americans’ subsidy race. We have never competed in Norway to be the cheapest or most heavily subsidised. We have competed on competence, Norwegian labour, clean and affordable energy and being world champions in high productivity.”