Western Iberia rewilding area

  • Country:
  • Start year:
  • Location:
    Western Iberia (Portugal)
  • Size (ha):
  • Area Type:
  • Type of protection:
    Different Natura 2000 sites along the Côa valley, targetting especially raptors and other cliff nesting birds

The rewilding project in Western Iberia aims the comeback of wildlife and natural processes in the montado landscapes of this area in Portugal near to the border with Spain, reconnecting the existing protected areas and providing new economic opportunities for the local communities.

Faia Brava reserve, Côa valley, Portugal. Staffan Widstrand


  • Habitat types: Extensive penillanura areas of Dehesas (series hystrucus-Querceto Holco rotundifoliae Genisto sigmentum), which highlights the holm oak (Quercus ilex spp. ballota), cork oak (Quercus suber), the gall oak (Quercus faginea) and ash (Fraxinus angustifolia), besides the jara scrub (Cistus), the broom (Cytisus multiflorus) and lavender (Lavandula stoechas). <br /> <br /> There are also valuable Thermo shrublands and pre-steppe, sub-steppe areas with grasses and annuals of Thero-Brachypodietea, thermophilic ash trees forest (Fraxinus angustifolia), Galician-Portuguese oak woods with Quercus robur and Quercus pyrenaica, gallery forests of Salix alba and Populus alba, alluvial forests (Alnus glutinosa and Fraxinus excelsior) (Alno-padion, Alnion incanae, Salicion albae), gallery forests of Salix alba and Populus alba and siliceous rocky with pioneer vegetation of the Sedo-Scleranthion or of the Sedo albi-Veronicion dillenii. <br /> <br /> Valleys and basins (Arribes of Duero, Arribes of Agueda, International Tajo River, Vale do Coa or Ucles and Huebra rivers still held without hydraulic dams) that connect the mountain with piedmont areas.
  • Keystone species present: Rabbit; Iberian wolf; wild boar; Egyptian vultures; griffon vultures
  • Fauna (mega) species present: Roe deer, mongoose, civets, martens, polecats, ferrets, wild cats, foxes, and birds like booted eagle, red kite, black kite, golden eagle, eagle owl and Bonelli’s eagle.
  • Fauna species reintroduced: wild Garrano horses and Maronesa cattle


  • Description: Creation of 'models' of how rewilded areas could function here, using Faia Brava reserve, owned by ATN, as core area. The approach includes purchasing important core areas, reintroducing missing species to create natural grazing systems, promotion of the natural return of the Iberian lynx, enhancing the conditions for the rabbit - a key element in the ecological systems of the Iberian Peninsula.
  • Aim: Favor the comeback of large animals and support reintroduction of still missing species. Involve local communities and establish new business opportunities linked to the wildlife presence.
  • Vision: One of the most exciting wild areas of the Iberian Peninsula, where a large part of the landscape is now regulated mainly by ecological processes. Here wildlife thrives in natural densities and the previous very active land management has taken a clear step back towards non-management.
  • Uniqueness: Portuguese "Montados" are traditional wood pastures from the middle ages with a savannah-like appearance, shaped by large grazers, especially cattle.
  • Results so far: - Grande Rota do Côa. An old human presence has been shaping the landscape across generations, transforming the use of the soil and directly affecting the local fauna and flora. Nevertheless, Côa is home to a rich biodiversity, and it is possible to cross the Côa Valley by walking, cycling, or horse back riding while enjoying the magnificent surroundings. (www.granderotadocoa.pt)<br /> - Building of wildlife hides, and trails<br /> - First reintroductions of horses and bovines to start natural grazing<br /> - Good media outreach for the project<br /> - Started first breeding site of the Tauros, the new European "Aurochs" as part of a Europe wide initiative
  • Flagship species: Lynx
  • Other characteristics: Community involved, Eco tourism, Education, Recreational activities, Research, Sale of sustainable products


  • Inspirational value: Here in Western Iberia, we are in a Mediterranean ecosystem. The use of land and the general management done by farmers around is such different than the one we do. In spite of that, in some cases, we can inspire them in the sense of showing them alternative ways of use of these resources, and that it's possible to obtain profits from them: by providing accommodation or selling visitors local products, or others. Maybe in some cases they have the opportunity to set aside a part of their land to restore the natural processes, avoiding the use by their domestic animals, for a start. Or even their whole farm, by considering it can be a way to earn a living.
  • Experience you would like to share: One interesting experience in Campanarios is the curiosity from wild horses (Retuerta horses) about humans. Even being wild animals, if you are around them, and you are quiet and respectful, in many cases they finally come near you. Not so close as to touch them, but quite close. It´s a great experience of interaction.
  • Experience you would like to gain: We’d like to know about the experiences in different places related to the opinions and feelings of locals about the rewilding projects, and how it has been managed in order to improve them (in case needed). Also, experiences regarding the wellness and health of the animals released in the different areas, and if they are managed in some way in the sense of giving supplementary feeding or watering during specific periods of the year, or vaccinating or other kinds of human intervention.
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