The boar war: Barcelona aims to control its wildlife

A A A

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."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones