Pigargo: The 21 giant Norwegian eagles sold on the Cantabrian cornisa that Asturias ya no quiere | Climate and environment

Examples of backs of Pigargo, the largest eagle in Europe, achieve a majestic view of a river. Se persiguen, juegan en el aire. One landed, gracefully, in the row of un árbol y el otro le sigue instantly. Allí se acalan y se miran de reojo. This scene, habitual in the Scandinavian countries, does not happen junto a fjord, until the Cantabrian cornisa. El Ministerio para la Transición Ecológica, which considers this rapaz extinta en España, launched in 2021 a project for the reintroduction of pigargos —traidos des de Noruega— con el visa bueno de Asturias y Cantabria. There were only 25 examples, 21 of which followed flying through the area. Among the criticisms of some biologists and ecologists —who deny the historical presence of the ave and believe that it can be harmed by autochthonous species—, Cantabria and Asturias have now paralyzed the initiative, leaving these 21 enormous aves in a complex administrative limbo.

Ernesto Álvarez, president of Grefa, en el todoterreno con el que se mueven por la cornisa cantabrica para vigilar al pigargo.
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“The scientific committee of the ministry included in 2018 al pigargo entre las species extinguidas en España. Alas, we have hicimos a serious reintroduction project —in which the ministry reversed 360,000 euros— which has given spectacular results,” explained Ernesto Álvarez, president of Grefa, an ecological unit specialized in the recovery of birds of prey —buitre negro, aguilucho cenizo, cernícalo primilla, milano real—. From the edge of an Asturian river, Álvarez gazes proudly through a telescope through which he looks perfectly at the pair of pigargos placed in the branch. “Se fijas, detrás hay un tercero”, sonríe lui. It’s a huge Ave (las alas extendidas de las hembras pueden llegar a los 2.5 metros), señorial, de mirada firm, cuyos ejemplares Adultos pesan de cuatro a seis kilos. Comen mainly carroña, but also fish, insects, other birds and hasta small mamíferos.

Grefa solicited examples in Noruega, where he worked on various reintroduction projects, he mounted a giant air-conditioning jaula (25 meters long by 10 meters) in the Asturian council of Ribadedeva. “Aquí llegan los pollos with 70 days. First we feed them in nests, and when they are prepared they jump, but they quedan in the jaula, with which they start to fly and socialize between them”, explains Lorena Juste, coordinator of the Proyecto Pigargo in the installations. “A los dos meses les abrimos la jaula y pueden salir, ma con esta técnica salen cuando ya están preparados. Además, les seguemos trayendo comida a las instalaciones, por eso muchas veces regresan ”, she continues.

Imagen cedida por Grefa of one of the 21 specimens of pigargos that you currently have in the Cantabrian cornisa.
Imagen cedida por Grefa of one of the 21 specimens of pigargos that you currently have in the Cantabrian cornisa.Grefa

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But the project is not enjoyed by the whole world. “No es una specie native to Asturias. It is a large predator and may suspect problems for other national species such as the moñudo cormorant, que está en peligro”, señala Maritxu Ameigeiras, de Ecologists in action Asturias. Nicolás López-Jiménez, of the Sociedad Española de Ornitología (SEO/BirdLife), añade: “Su introducción has created alarma en las poblaciones locales por posibles daños a la pesca y la ganadería. Consider that you are an induction project, not a reintroduction project. There are other priorities to reverse public money at the time of recovering other species of birds”.

Scientific criticism

Even some scientists have spoken out against the beginning. “He has been freeing a species that has no hueco in the ecosystem since thousands of years ago. You can compete with the águila real or the quebrantahuesos por la comida, y écharlos de las zonas de nidificación. Se ha hecho sin base científica”, criticizes Germán Orizaola, Ramón y Cajal investigator in Zoology of the Universidad de Oviedo. Joint with other two colleagues, he signed an open charter opposing the plan in sus inicios and keep your opinion against it.

Surely this controversy influenced the change of position from Asturias to Cantabria, two regions that in 2021 —when only the first examples were made— sent sent maps to the ministry demonstrating their support for the project “to restore the extinct species in Spanish territory” . Back años después, in February 2023, Grefa presented in el Flora and Fauna Committee —que aglutina a ministerio y comunidades— a case informs 230 pages in which he summarizes that the reintroduction is working better than the esperado, that there is a low mortality (siguen vivos 21 de los 25 examples) and that they too have formed two pairs.

Sin embargo, las dos autonomías norteñas pidieron non continuar, pese a que ni quiera financian la iniciativa. “Habiendo study los informes, el Principalo y el rest de comunidades limítrofes feel that no se daban las circunstancias adecuadas para continuar,” explained a spokesman of the Consejería de Medio Rural Asturiana. Guillermo Blanco, councilor of Desarrollo Rural Cantabro en funciones, added: “No está accreditado que la introducción no genere efectos directos o indirectos sobre aves marinas amenazadas, y tampoco está accreditado que el pigargo fuese un reproductive en nuestro país en tiempos históricos”.

Miguel Ferrer, investigator of the Biological Station of Doñana-CSIC y experto en reintroducciones de aves, nega la mayor: “Hay evidencias científicas claras de que el pigargo, que es de origen Africano, estuvo en España. Eso is indisputable”. It coincides with the ministry: “En tiempos históricos ha sido registrada muchas veces, through observations, registries documentados, ejemplares cazados…”. Ferrer defines the project: “The scientific basis of the project is solid, the ministry is serious in favor of the people of Grefa. Ours is loading biodiversity in Doñana, in Las Tablas and in many other sites and it doesn’t seem to matter, and when we have a project to recover it in a surprising position. Asturias y Cantabria still maintains a reactionary posture. They are the mismas communities that have opted for the protection of the lobe, quizá su cabreo tenga que ver with esa decision”.

Lorena Juste, biologist of Grefa, in the jaula where rose a cabo the first introduction of los pigargos in the Cantabrian cornisa.

Lorena Juste, biologist of Grefa, in the jaula where rose a cabo the first introduction of los pigargos in the Cantabrian cornisa.
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“Esta habiendo mucho bulo contra la especie: vimos noticias de ataques a ganado cuando todavía no habíamos soltado ningún ejemplar, y además es algo que no suele pasar”, criticizes Ernesto Álvarez, from Grefa. Other ecological entities accuse the risk of interfering with the quebrantahuesos, in danger of extinction in Spain. Gerardo Báguena, vice president of the Fundación para la Conservación del Quebrantahuesos, which recovered this species in the Picos de Europa, said they saw a pigargo in the muladar from where they feed the buitres, but no hubo interactions ni problems between them. “También ha habito interactions en vuelo, ma sin que hayamos detectedado ninguna alerta”. Báguena does not appear against the reintroduction of the pigargo, but it is pretend that he had more information on this project, so much so as to seek the suyo.

Uncertain fate of the specimens

¿Qué hacer ora con los 21 ejemplares de esta águila sueltos en Asturias? Various conservation entities, such as Ecologists in Action, SEO and the Environmental Coordinator of Asturias they have prevented the retreat of the animals, also which also includes German Orizaola. Asturias and Cantabria are silent. Grefa, por supuesto, pide continue with the proyecto, mientras que el ministerio signal: “The correspondent is to give continuity to the follow-up, to keep information on the survival, distribution and habits of the specimens that were freed and that perviven”. The capture of los ejemplares is not on the table.

Two piggargos and a buitre leonado in a high voltage tower protected with plastic to prevent the birds from being electrocuted.
Two piggargos and a buitre leonado in a high voltage tower protected with plastic to prevent the birds from being electrocuted.Pigargo/GREFA project

El Instituto Noruego para la Investigación de la Naturaleza (Nina, en inglés), the body that collaborated with España to give up the free chickens here, is opposed to the paralysis. “We don’t want to comment on Spain’s decision, but we can assure you that if the idea is to keep a viable population of pigargos in the country, it is very ready to stop the reintroduction,” said Duncan Halley, project director at Nina. In regards to the criticisms, he points out: “In Norway we have censused one 12,000 pigargos, and there are hundreds of miles of doves, cabras and terneros pastando en libertad. No hemos encontrado un solo caso en el que esta rapaz ataque al ganado”.

Grefa has marked all examples with a GPS which also carries telemetry data. “We offer recent data on temperature, altitude, flight speed… With this we can know your behavior patterns, as they come from, and we can check it, or if they form pairs”, says Lorena Juste. Así saben que Valkyrieone of the specimens released in Asturias, flew thousands of kilometers until the north of Alemania and flew back, while Loki hizo lo propio hasta Países Bajos. “Have an incredible orientation. We can fly miles of kilometers but to the final suelen volver al point de departure”, points out the biologist. They have also been llegado hasta España piggargos de otras latitudes, como France or Alemania.

A pigargo perched in a branch looks for a Ribadedeva estuary, in the Cantabrian cornisa.

A pigargo perched in a branch looks for a Ribadedeva estuary, in the Cantabrian cornisa. DAVID EXPOSED

Following the information on the ecological entity, based on these follow-ups, no impacts on all species were highlighted and only if an intention to predate on non-amenazada fauna species, such as ducks and common gaviotes, was detected. As a fish, it has been seen that it feeds on typical pieces of estuaries such as los múgiles. “If it is a species that feeds mainly on carrion, because it interferes in a very limited way with other sylvan species in the joint world distribution area it occupies”, reports the ministry.

Jesús Bordás, alcalde en funciones de he reiterated, queere que el proyecto continúe: “Nos compromises y cedimos instalaciones. It’s a charity initiative for the city that isn’t causing any problems. If it consolidates, it will be a tourist attraction, it will be possible to observe pigargos points and an interpretation center, igual que el del quebrantahuesos”. De echo, los lugares ya están elegidos, ma todo se ha parado con la marche atrás del Principado: “Hay que tener palabra, si empiezas algo hay que terminarlo”.

Álvarez, de Grefa, shows his emphasis on critics: “In 42 years carrying out reintroduction projects, he has never seen such an ‘ecocidal’ reaction against biodiversity. The design is useful for reintroducing the species and also for causing current on high voltage cables and towers to prevent pigargos like other birds of prey from being electrocuted. Tenemos que follow”. Germán Oraizola contradicts it: “This implementation if it has a scientific basis, it is a bad thing before”. Ajenos a la polemica, los pigargos leapt de la rama y emprendin el vuelo hacia el sky Asturiano.

Ernesto Álvarez, president of Grefa, observes with his camera el vuelo de pigargo.

Ernesto Álvarez, president of Grefa, observes with his camera el vuelo de pigargo.
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