THOUSANDS of demonstrators gathered in Madrid yesterday (Sunday) calling for special protection orders for the Iberian wolf, an endangered species whose population is reducing dramatically because of livestock farmers shooting them.
At least 200 environmental, wildlife and animal protection associations across Spain took part in the demonstration in the capital, which involved a march from the C/ Alcalá to the central Puerta del Sol square.
Some dressed in wolves' masks and walked to the background music of a funeral march.
“Wolves are not the 'baddies' of the fairytales, but are a valuable gem of our wildlife and should be protected,” said spokesman for Equo, Juan López de Uralde.
The savage image of killer wolves are promoted to make their slaughter appear less of an unethical action, the political coalition leader says.
“Barely 1% of harm suffered by livestock is caused by wolves, and their presence is necessary to guarantee the natural balance of our rural ecosystems,” added World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) Spain secretary-general Juan Carlos del Olmo.
“Authorities cannot continue to ignore the people's appeals in defence of wolves, and we will carry on fighting until their unfair and random persecution ends.
“We want more discussion, more science and more respect from authorities, allowing this gem of nature to carry on living.”
Del Olmo adds that it is 'intolerable' how, in the 21st century, nothing is being done to ensure the safe cohabiting of wolves and livestock alike.
“Wolves are the least of livestock farmers' problems, and it has been proven that killing wolves solves absolutely nothing,” he stresses.
According to the WWF, the Spanish caretaker ministry of agriculture has drawn up a 'rough census' of wolves, but has gone no farther to ensure their conservation.
They believe the census has been collated to 'justify the increase' in wolf culls, and said the centre-northern region of Castilla y León was one of the worst offenders.
And in Andalucía, Madrid, the central plains of Castilla-La Mancha and the land-locked western region of Extremadura – anywhere south of the river Duero, says the WWF – Iberian wolves were practically extinct, but still nothing had been done to save them.
Yet the very same creatures are a fully-protected species in neighbouring Portugal, 'showing it is very possible and very viable' to do so without putting livestock at risk', demonstrators say.
“But the second they cross the border into Spain, they are peppered with bullets,” complains Theo Oberhuber of Ecologists in Action.
“This is in spite of the European 'Habitats' directive which requires the population of Iberian wolves to be maintained in favourable conditions.”