THE Iberian wolf has been classed as a protected species by the Spanish Government, making it illegal to hunt the animal nationwide.
Spain’s Environment Ministry has ruled that protection for wolves in the south of the country will now be extended north of the Duero river, where controlled hunting had still been allowed.
They will now share the same protections as the Iberian Lynx and Cantabrian Brown Bear.
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Since the 1970s, when the Iberian wolf was very close to extinction, environmental organisations have repeatedly called on the government to cease all hunting of the species and to include it in the List of Wild Species under Special Protection.
For Ecologistas en Accion the ruling is a ‘historic win’ in the fight to protect the wolf.
The agricultural organisation UPA that ‘represents, defends and provides services’ to small and medium farmers and ranchers in Spain, was, however, quick to condemn the move.
It argued that the nationwide hunting ban will lead to more attacks on livestock, accusing the Environment Minister, Teresa Ribera, of ‘ignoring farmers’ needs’.
Ribera highlighted the cultural and scientific importance of the species, including its value in maintaining ecosystems, and promised to work with farmers on ways to protect cattle without harming wolves.
Spain is home to an estimated 1,500-2,000 Iberian wolves, with 90% in the northern regions of Castilla y Leon, Asturias and Galicia where it is believed that, until now, up to 400 were killed annually.