Postcard from... Madrid


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The Independent Online

Until very recently, probably the only wild wolf in the province of Madrid – zoos excluded – was a statue of a three-pawed canis lupus in the town of Alpedrete, erected in honour of a member of the species that once roamed local sierras despite lacking one of its feet.

This month, however, for the first time in 60 years, live specimens have returned. A herd of 30 goats was killed by wolves roughly 40 miles from Spain’s capital. The herd’s owner, Javier Colmenarejo says another 50 animals are missing, presumed dead.

Mr Colmenarejo blames a secret plan to repopulate the region with wolves but ecologists deny any such programme exists.

Hunting bans are a more likely explanation for the wolf revival, with numbers up tenfold from a low of 400 in the 1970s. In a possible response to population growth, nine wolves were illegally shot and killed in the Picos de Europa mountains.

Compensation is costly, too. In the past eight years, Madrid’s neighbouring region of Castille, where the species flourishes, has had to pay out ¤1.7m (£1.2m) in compensation for livestock attacked by wild animals, including wolves. Meanwhile, Mr Colmenarejo, who lost stock worth ¤100,000, says he will have to close his cheese-making business.