1 Tahrcountry Musings: A World Heritage sanctuary for the world’s most threatened cat

Saturday, February 08, 2014

A World Heritage sanctuary for the world’s most threatened cat

The known history of Doñana National Park goes back over 700 years – the area was once a favourite hunting reserve of several Spanish kings. In 1963, the Spanish Government, in collaboration with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), decided to acquire 7,000 hectares (27 sq miles) of land to create the Doñana Biological Reserve. Six years later, Doñana National Park was born, with its boundaries being extended in 1978 and again in 2004. Since 2006, the park’s management has been the exclusive responsibility of the Autonomous Community of Andalucía’s government.

Today, it is the world’s only protected area that is not only a National Park but also a World Heritage site (designated in 1994), a Ramsar wetland site, a Biosphere Reserve, and a European Community Special Protection Area.

The uniqueness of Doñana is due to the great diversity of biotopes it contains, allowing for the coexistence of a wide variety of plant and animal species. In addition to its marsh ecosystem, which is characterised by high productivity, a set of exceptional environmental units converge here: beaches, fixed and mobile dune fields, scrub woodlands and maquis, and numerous lagoons scattered among the vegetation. The park’s size and strategic location make it one of the most important wetlands in Europe: as a wintering area, it receives more than half a million water fowl each year, and also serves as a stop-over for migratory birds on the route to and from Africa.

Having been inhabited and altered by humans throughout its history, the Doñana region continues as a stronghold for traditional uses such as beekeeping, harvesting of pine cones and agriculture. Important traditional events include the “Saca de las Yeguas”, a livestock event, and the “Romería de El Rocío”, one of the most popular religious pilgrimages in the country.

Info Courtesy: IUCN

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