Saturday, November 27

The general director of Natural Environment of the Valencian Government resigns after the death of 10 donkeys in an anti-fire project | Ecology | Climate and Environment

One of the donkeys that were part of the forest clearing plan to fight forest fires.  The image was shared by the Valencian Government on networks at the beginning of the initiative.
One of the donkeys that were part of the forest clearing plan to fight forest fires. The image was shared by the Valencian Government on networks at the beginning of the initiative.

The general director of the Natural Environment of the Valencian Generalitat, Benjamín Pérez, has resigned this Tuesday after the death of 10 donkeys that were part of an animal fire brigade in Castellón. This has been revealed by the Minister of Agriculture, Rural Development, Climate Emergency and Ecological Transition, Mireia Mollà, who has accepted the resignation after verifying that there has been a negligence in the monitoring of the initiative that has resulted in the death of the animals. The equids had poor nutrition, wounds and bites from other animals. The 10 dead donkeys were part, along with 40 other specimens, of a project to prevent forest fires by eating forest mass and creating natural fire breaks. The surviving animals were evicted on October 9 and are in the pens of the Juan Lebrián cattle ranch, in the maritime district of Castellón, which owns the donkeys.

Stress due to harassment is one of the causes that could have caused the death of the animals that made up an animal fire brigade in the Desert de les Palmes de Castellón natural park, according to the “preliminary vision” provided by the team of veterinarians referred by the Valencian Government to clarify the facts. This has been confirmed by sources from the Ministry of Agriculture, which opened an informative file “to analyze what happened and limit responsibilities, if any.” The counselor has announced that they have filed a complaint with the Civil Guard due to indications that it has been a human action that has caused the harassment and stress in the animals. In addition, the council has an anonymous note in which the animals are threatened due to the noise and the inconvenience they caused to the neighbors at night.

A file has also been opened to the director-curator of the Desert de les Palmes Natural Park because “there has not been good supervision of the project,” according to Mollà. “This was worthy of broadening the focus of intervention and correctly raising and involving veterinarians and authorities,” said the counselor, who has requested his voluntary appearance in the Valencian Courts to explain what happened.

It was at the beginning of last August when, at the request of the aforementioned farmer, authorization was requested so that 50 donkeys could participate in the forest cleaning program devised by the council to reduce the risk of fires in the Valencian mountains. The management of the Castellón natural park considered that it could be “a positive experience” and transferred the request for permits to the General Directorate of the Environment, which gave the green light to the location of fifty donkeys in a private plot of the Desert de les Palmes , according to the counseling. The same sources influence the proper functioning of similar projects implemented in other parts of Spain and Europe: these animals, when feeding, eliminate combustible vegetation from the forests and help prevent the appearance of forest fires.

In just two months, at the beginning of October, the first news about the poor physical condition of the donkeys reached the council. It was then that the rancher was urged to remove them from the plot and conclude the project. “We did it as soon as we have knowledge of the general direction of Environment that the experience is not working and the state that some of the animals present”, they maintain in Agriculture.

A week ago, the department headed by Mireia Mollà opened an information file to clarify what happened. In the framework of this investigation, veterinarians from the department moved last Friday to the livestock pens to take samples and test crops. Pending the results, “a preliminary view of the veterinarians does not rule out that the animals have suffered stress from harassment” and that this could be one of the many factors that would be behind the fatal outcome. The same sources indicate that the experts ‘hypothesis would coincide with the version given by the farmer himself, “who had already warned of the animals’ state of nerves, the unusual degree of dispersion they presented and the dog bites that some had in the legs ”, say sources of Agriculture.

The results will be known in a few days, according to the council, which affects the “unusual” of what happened, “since an incident like this in such a short time frame is strange, and it is what we are trying to find out now.”

The Group for the Study and Conservation of Natural Spaces (GECEN), for its part, has denounced the inaction of the Administration, since “the deaths have been progressive and staggered, spaced in days or weeks.” The group believes that they have not controlled or acted correctly and regrets that the park management did not monitor the land and did not act “with a minimum of responsibility and common sense.”

This group recalls, according to the Efe agency, that different hypotheses of the death of these animals are being considered, such as the lack of food – as the area does not have enough suitable vegetation for them – the lack of a shelter to spend the nights, a poisoning, the release of dogs or the attack of wild animals. Those responsible for GECEN have clarified that they are not against this type of project, but rather against attitudes “close to negligence”, as they should have acted, they point out, after the first or second death.

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