Iberian Wolf Sanctuary in Portugal
Francisco Fonseca is Professor of Biology at the University of Lisbon and the Co-founder of Grupo Lobo, the conservation organization focused on saving the Portuguese wolf (Canus lupus signatus) from extinction. He stands in a forest at the sanctuary he and colleagues have created north of Lisbon, and waits for the 11-year old, sixty-pound Alpha male named Prado to approach. Prado, an Iberian wolf, loves men with the exception of male veterarians. He has a distinct lack of appreciation for all vets. Grupo Lobo’s incredible Iberian Wolf Sanctuary is profiled in DSF’s book Sanctuary.
The Iberian Wolf Sanctuary sits on over 40 acres of native trees, including cork, and adjoins the 2400- acre Tapada de Mafra, the historic summer palace of the Kings of Portugal and today a magnificent preserve with native deer, wild boar and two additional wolves.
As of 2003, there were 2200 Iberian wolves in Spain, but a mere 300 in Portugal, with only 30 of them ranging south of the River Douro in the far North of the country. The other 270 are scattered north of the river in and between three national parks. Their status is dire. The increasing number of fires that periodically sweep the country (often the result of arsen) are having a disastrous effect on wolf habitat, that and lingering superstitions by Portuguese farmers that view wolves as creatures to be exterminated.
Professor Fonseca was instrumental in obtaining legislation from Parliament that safeguarded the wolf in Portugal as of 1988. The legislation exists only on paper, but thanks to the Grupo Lobo Sanctuary and the continuing educational outreach that Francisco and his colleagues are striving to accomplish, there is hope that the gorgeous Iberian wolf will survive. “I just love them,” says Francisco.
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