Rare fauna in Southern Spain

In European terms Spain is a big country – and a very diverse one.

Even individual regions within Spain are full of diversity.

The region known as Andalucía, which makes up most of the south of the country, is home to the driest place in Spain; the wettest place in Spain; the hottest place in Spain; and it has the highest mountain on the Spanish peninsula.*

The lynx

Andalucía’s fauna is similarly varied.

This vast area, which makes up about 17% of Spain, includes many National Parks acting as sanctuaries for some of the country’s most threatened animal species.

Species such as the lynx. The Iberian lynx is the world’s most endangered wildcat species. A combination of loss of natural habitat and lack of prey for feeding on, have meant that lynx numbers have declined from 100,000 at the beginning of the 20th Century to around just 100-120 in the wild in 2007. At Doñana National Park in south west Andalucia efforts are going on to stop the lynx dying out altogether.


Many of Andalusia’s National Parks are refuges for birds of prey, and Doñana is where you’ll find the vulnerable Spanish Imperial Eagle. Meanwhile, the rare Black Vulture (pictured) has found a haven in the Sierra Morena, a vast area of protected land near Còrdoba.

Andalucía is a paradise for birdwatchers, particularly in Spring and Autumn around the Straits of Gibraltar. With only 14km of water separating Africa and Europe, this is a key location in the migration of birds between the two continents. It is thought that more than 80 species of bird use this crossing point.


Off the same coast of Andalucía whale watching has become a popular pastime among tourists. This is where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Mediterranean Sea, and unique maritime conditions – as a result of this confluence – ensure that the Strait is an excellent source of food for the whales. Several types of whale can be seen, including Orcas, Pilot and Sperm whales.

Mountain goat

Among Spain’s less endangered species are mountain goats. I remember being entranced when I was lucky enough to see a small trip of mountain goats in the Alpujarras mountain range, south of Granada. They were exceptionally agile and watching them dance their way up what looked like a sheer cliff face will always stick in my memory.

The fighting bull is a well known symbol of Spain. However, few visitors to the country have actually seen one grazing in a field (though parts of Andalucía are well known for breeding fighting bulls).

Osborne's bull

On the other hand, if you have been to Spain you may well have spotted Osborne’s bull on a roadside, just about anywhere in the country. Back in 1956 these bulls started out as advertising hoardings for Osborne, the sherry making company. Around 40 years later a law was passed banning roadside advertising, but such was the national affection for Osborne’s bull that it was allowed to remain as an object of cultural significance!

* The mountain is called the Mulhacén. Teide, a mountain in the Canary Islands, is the highest in all of Spain.

Until next time readers,


Jim Porter is a co-founder of Speekee®, home of the most comprehensive Spanish learning program for children ever to appear online

Jim began his Spanish learning journey in 1990. He has been a language teacher since 1994 and he lives in sunny southern Spain with his two bilingual children. Loves it! More…

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