The boar war: Barcelona aims to control its wildlife


Catalonia became Spain's capital of animal rights last summer when the regional parliament banned bullfighting. Now it is struggling with a new animal issue: what to do about all those wild boars in a Barcelona park?

The boars are not as glamourous as the bulls that face sequinned-suited matadors. But the creatures' fate is stirring the animal-activist crowd.

The number of wild boars in Collserola Park has grown too big to sustain itself. Environmentalists estimate that about 500 of them forage for roots, plants, insects and tiny prey in the wooded mountains at the edge of Barcelona. They also sometimes wind up in the city itself, scavenging for food in trash containers. Wandering across roads and highways, they occasionally cause traffic accidents.

So the regional government that previously spared the fighting bulls devised an odd solution, allowing hunters to control the boars' numbers by killing them with bows and arrows.

"It's very secure and ecological, and there have never been accidents," said Francisco José Martinez, president of the Astor Bow Hunting Society. Archers shoot hi-tech metal arrows that cost as much as €30 (£25) each from deluxe aluminium bows, which cost thousands of euros. The weapons kill as quickly as shotguns, Mr Martinez said. They also make far less noise and do not disturb birds nesting nearby.

But the local animal lobby, riding high after its anti-bullfight victory, protested against the scheme with a letter-writing campaign. AnimaNaturalis called the method "cruel, evil and inefficient", causing the animal to bleed to death slowly and painfully. So far, the activists are on a winning streak. The Catalan government has backtracked and now the only legal way to control the numbers of wild boars is to trap them or daze them with a tranquilliser dart and transfer them to another mountain.

But environmentalists are still not satisfied. "We humans created the problems, so the solution isn't to kill more of them but to lessen the impact of development by bringing back their natural predators," said Jaume Grau, a spokesman on biodiversity issues for the environmental group Ecologists in Action.

His group recommends introducing predators such as wolves, eagles and bears, which gradually disappeared from the park over the last century to be replaced by marathons, motocross races and bird watchers. "Bears have been re-introduced in the Pyrenees mountains and nobody has been killed except a sheep or two," Mr Grau said.

Barcelona may seem like an unlikely place to encounter a glut of wild boars. But the city's population has multiplied nearly five-fold in the last 50 years. Before then, the Sagrada Familia, Las Ramblas and other monuments were surrounded by farms and wooded mountains.

The boars' problems began as the Barcelona suburbs sprawled around their habitat. "Before they needed more food they could move to another mountain habitat, now when they leave the forest they immediately encounter a highway," Mr Grau said.

This year, the park became a nature reserve and hunting with guns was banned, allowing the boars to multiply further.

The archers, meanwhile, are disappointed. They saw their role as a "social service" and had mapped out a careful strategy under which lone shooters would target animals at close range to ensure a quick kill. And they would not waste the succulent meat, Mr Martinez said. "Wild boar is tastes very good," he said, "But... you have to prepare it well."

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions