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National Park number 16: Sierra de las Nieves, Málaga province
ANDALUCÍA will add another National Park to its list midway through 2018 – the Sierra de las Nieves, literally the 'snow mountains', will be named the 16th of these official areas of outstanding natural beauty in Spain.
Overwhelming support by members of the public near the mountain range in 13 towns and villages in the province of Málaga – the closest of which is Ronda – mean society has been right behind the regional government's application.
Exactly the opposite has happened in the Canary Islands, where residents were completely against the idea of the island of El Hierro becoming a National Park, despite attempts by their government to convince them that such a title would mean a huge economic boost for the area and ensure its natural beauty would be protected forever.
The 163,000-hectare (402,782-acre) parkland, with its dense forests and caves, will become the third National Park in Andalucía, after the famous skiing destination of the Sierra Nevada and the coastal wetlands in Cádiz and Huelva, the Doñana, home to the unique Retuerta horse – the only known breed of horse or pony never to have been domesticated and one that is not found anywhere else in the world.
Sitting in the Ronda mountains at the westernmost limit of the Bética range, the Sierra de las Nieves is home to rare breeds of flora including the Portuguese Oak (Quercus Faginea), the holm oak and the Spanish Fir (Abies Pinsapo), and endangered species of fauna including the Egyptian Mongoose (the Herpestes Ichneumon), the Roe Deer, the Mountain Goat, the otter, and a long list of birds of prey.
Among its grottos, caves and rocky shafts is the deepest chasm in Andalucía, a vertical drop known as the GESM.
Already, the Sierra de las Nieves holds the UNESCO title of Biosphere Reserve and is part of the intercontinental network covering areas of this nature in southern Spain and northern Morocco, and is a Special Conservation Zone and Special Bird Protection Zone within Spain's Red Natura 2000 ('Nature Network 2000').
The regional government, or Junta de Andalucía has released the above photographs, of snow-covered Spanish Fir and of the Fuensanta natural spring.
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