EU takes regional government to court over Iberian lynx

LAST UPDATED: 1 Apr, 2009 @ 13:40
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Iberian LynxBrussels investigates asphalting work on Doñana road

THE European Union is taking the Junta de Andalucia to court for building a road that cuts through one of the few remaining habitats of the Iberian lynx.

The Villamanrique-El Rocio road in the protected Doñana National Park has claimed the lives of 500 animals since its construction in 2001, including at least two lynx (Lynx pardus).

“This road constitutes complete irresponsibility on the part of the regional government,” Ecologistas en Accion spokesman Juan Cuesta said.

“After 20 years of promises, the reality is that all we have in Doñana are more kilometres of asphalt.”

The 17-kilometre stretch of road was once a dirt track but was asphalted in 2001 to improve access for farm workers.

This maintenance work, carried out by the agriculture department of the Junta, was completed without any studies into the environmental impact, according to claims made by ecology groups WWF and Ecologistas en Accion.

An initial compromise solution required authorities to build roundabouts to slow traffic, but these were replaced with painted line markings when a local driver died after crashing into one.

When EU officials inspected the road earlier this year, they were stunned to discover that the roundabouts had been replaced with painted lines, said Luis Suarez of WWF-Adena, the conservation group that had asked the EU to investigate the road.

“They asked if this was all joke. I replied that it wasn’t. Furthermore, I told them it was paid for by EU money,” Suarez added.

Mr Suarez said the dangers to the lynx were increased because the road had no official speed limit: “The police can do nothing because officially this road does not exist. It never had planning permission and there is no record of it being built.”

Doñana is one of only two natural breeding grounds of the animal in Spain, the other being the Sierra Morena – the range of mountains that divides Andalucía and Castilla la Mancha.

Meanwhile, central government is working to reintroduce the animal to Portugal.

The Iberian lynx has been extinct in the neighbouring country since 2003, when the last known example was found dead in the Valle de Guadiana region.

Using lynx born in Doñana, Spanish government officials want to repopulate several areas of its neighbouring country.

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