April 18, 2021

Research on livestock that threatens the protected nature reserves of the Canary Islands


Feral goats are currently the main threat to the protected natural areas of the Canary Islands, along with sheep, goats and mouflon. This is what the professor of the ULPGC denounces Pedro Sosa, which classifies these animals as “authentic terminators” of the forests with the highest percentage of endemisms in the Archipelago. The researcher from the Institute of Environmental Studies and Natural Resources (Iunat), analyzes in an article the vulnerability of island ecosystems and the urgent need for their preservation with “precise and courageous” actions, such as the raids.

“The feral speciesIn other words, exotic species, outside the ecosystem, are causing the breakdown of the natural balance of the wild forests of the Canary Islands. Today, the major threat to these forests is the introduced herbivores, a regiment of genuine four-legged tractors: goats, sheep, raises and mouflon”. This is how he denounces it Pedro Sosa, Professor of Botany at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (ULPGC), and researcher of the University Institute of Environmental Studies and Natural Resources (Iunat), in the article entitled The ‘guerrilla’ of feral animals that threatens the Canarian forests, published on the scientific dissemination platform The Conversation.

Professor Pedro Sosa. | | JUAN CASTRO


“The feral species, that is to say, the exotic species, alien to the ecosystem, are causing the breakdown of the natural balance of the wild forests of the Canary Islands. Today, the threat with capital letters on these forests is the introduced herbivores, a regiment of genuine four-legged tractors: goats, sheep, raisins and mouflon ”. This is what Pedro Sosa, professor of Botany at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (ULPGC), and researcher at the University Institute of Environmental Studies and Natural Resources (Iunat) denounces, in the article entitled The ‘guerrilla’ of feral animals that threatens Canarian forests, published on the scientific dissemination platform The Conversation.

“We are not talking about sheep or goats that are under livestock control, but about animals that do not have an owner, that have released them at a certain moment in the field, and that they must be eliminated from those natural spaces. It is difficult to have an exact census of how many loose animals there are in the protected natural areas, but the destruction is impressive, they eat all the green and the sprouts that are ahead “, indicated the also president of the Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity Canaria.

Endemic

Sosa warns that most of the wild forests of the Canary Islands are characterized by being endemic, exclusive, distributed naturally only in the Canary archipelago. Among them, the Canarian pine forests stand out, which account for 60% of the islands’ forest mass; the laurel forest or laurel forest, which constitutes “the most complex forest and with the highest percentage of endemisms in the Canary Islands, a true architect so that the archipelago is not an arid and rugged desert”; as well as La Palma groves, formed by the Canarian palm tree, “which are the only wild palm groves in the entire European Union together with those of Crete,” he said.

All this natural heritage is in danger from the populations of feral animals, mainly goats – it is estimated that there are 3,150, most of them in Gran Canaria Tenerife, La Gomera and Fuerteventura-; sheep -with 2,400 in La Gomera and 250 in Tenerife-, flock -about 1,000 in La Palma and 1,000 in Tenerife-, and mouflon -1,000 in Tenerife and 120 in La Palma-. “Without any control, without owners and with stable populations (feral), these animals are real terminators in the protected natural areas of the islands. These are joined by the rabbit, a silent element that attacks where it hurts the most, in the juvenile stages, preventing the regeneration of the flora ”, the professor stressed.

In addition to eating everything green that they find in their path, Professor Sosa points out that said fauna is the main cause of erosion in these natural reserves due to their continuous movements. “They get into cliffs and in areas that can be dangerous even for people who practice trekking, for example, because they cause landslides. They are totally uncontrolled animals and they are doing a damage more than demonstrated in protected natural spaces ”.

The expert demands “precise and courageous” measures such as the beatings of these animals


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The Iunat researcher points out that the only solution to protect nature reserves is the elimination of these feral animals through raids, a solution that experts have been advising for years, and that is always met with the rejection of environmental groups. “The main problem is that there is no awareness of the damage that these feral animals are doing to the natural heritage. If it becomes the Prado Museum that is in danger and what is inside are a bunch of goats, go to the Civil Guard to eliminate them, and that is why we advocate, to eliminate these animals completely from our protected natural heritage. That is where the problem comes from, some of us say that the only effective way is based on hunts, or combined with hunts, but we know that hunts on those cliffs do not work, and those made with dogs are transformed into a hunt with dogs. ”, He stressed.

The professor of Botany lacks greater citizen awareness and an institutional control plan


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The professor of Botany insists that the problem requires urgent measures and as an example that the damage to the biodiversity of these animals is more than demonstrated, he points out that the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has included goats feral among the 100 most harmful invasive species in the world: they destroy vegetation, alter its structure, cause mass extinctions of plant species and, secondarily, affect the fauna that depends on them. “We are aware that the solution is not easy, but the population must know what is really happening and that the problem goes beyond that bunch of goats, that guerrilla that is destroying everything. Eliminating them from protected natural spaces is a great need because we are running out of flora and fauna, also because it affects animals in the area. To whom and where do we put the importance, in these goats or in our natural reserves? ”

Professor Sosa reiterates that the “fixes don’t work” and that the solution lies in their elimination through the beatings, followed by a follow-up plan to control that the problem does not reappear. “The conservation and restoration of wildlife in our ecosystems must be carried out by public administrations. More than ever, strong, precise and courageous solutions and ways of proceeding must be established, always and scrupulously based on scientific knowledge and research, and fed back with an intense training and environmental and rural education that we have lost ”, he concludes.

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