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Iberian ibex Capra pyrenaica SPAIN/PEÑA DE FRANCIA MONASTERY, SALAMANCA PROVINCE, CASTILLA Y LEÓN The Iberian ibex are rare and shy all across the Sierra de Francia mountain chain, but suddenly, when you reach the lands of the Monastery of Peña de Francia, they are instead very numerous and very tame. Why is that? Because here they are not hunted. Which also means that what you see here is probably the normal, natural numbers of ibex, and that means hundreds. It also shows that wild animals quickly learn where they are not hunted and then can become much more relaxed in their relation with humans. Hunted to near-extinction, the Iberian ibex is now returning in strong numbers and slowly spreading, all due to strictly enforced protection measures. The ibex population in Spain has increased from fewer than 5,000 individuals in 1980, to an estimated 50–60,000 today. A major conservation success! The first Iberian ibex are now also returning to Portugal, where the local subspecies was wiped out as recently as the year 2000. Many areas in Portugal and Spain are still waiting for reintroductions to speed up that recovery – among them Rewilding Europe’s focus areas Sierra de Gata and Campanarios de Azába in Spain, together with Faia Brava and the Côa Valley in Portugal. The ibex was once one of the most important browsers and grazers all across Southern and Alpine Europe, living comfortably from sea level all the way up to the highest Alps, filling an ecological niche which for the last 5,000 years has been occupied by the domestic sheep. Photo: Staffan Widstrand/Wild Wonders of Europe