Iberian brown bears rediscovered in Spain

MADRID, May 16 (Xinhua) — The Iberian Brown bear, one of the symbolic animals of Spanish wildlife and a distant cousin of China’s giant panda, is making a comeback in northern Spain after being on the verge of extinction.

This year, the first pair of cubs to be seen in 15 years were spotted by close-circuit TV cameras in the region of Alto Pallars in the Pyrenees mountains which separate Spain from France.

“You can see that they seem to be two brothers playing in the snow and we think they are the first cubs to be born in the last 15 years,” Santiago Palazon, head biologist at the Biodiversity and Animal Protection Service of Catalan regional government, told Xinhua.

Palazon said that the discovery of the cubs was “tremendously positive” in the battle to save the animals, which were on the point of disappearing from Spanish woods in the late 1980’s and 1990’s.

“They are still in danger of extinction, but the population is recovering slowly thanks to greater awareness of them and the reintroduction of animals (from elsewhere),” he added.

The biologist said brown bears live in two regions of Spain: Cantabria and Asturias, and the Pyrenees.

“The numbers dropped to around 80 in Asturias and Cantabria, an all-time low, while there were just four or five remaining in the Pyrenees,” said Palazon. “It was a critical situation.”

The Spanish government reacted in time and introduced measures to protect the bears, such as the creation of protected reserves for the animals.

“It was also very important that society became aware of the problem,” said Palazon, adding that bears were brought in from Slovenia and that “without those bears, there wouldn’t be any left now in Spain.”

Currently there are thought to be 40 or 50 of these animals living in the Pyrenees, while around 300 roam through the woods in Cantabria and Asturias.

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