Category: Basque Conservation (page 2 of 2)

Brown bear sighting near Garde in Nafarroa

There was a reported sighting of a rare brown bear near the village of Garde in the Erronkari/Roncal Valley of Nafarroa on August 6. Experts have confirmed it could be a male named Neré, born in 1997 to one of the Slovenian brown bears, Melba, introduced into the Central Pyrenees in 1996. This was part of a controlled program to repopulate the Pyrenees with Slovenian brown bears, genetically similar to the autochthonous but by then extinct Pyrenean bear (the last surviving wild bears in Western Europe). Neré has been recorded in this more western part of the Pyrenees since 2000.

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European brown bear. Photo by Francis C. Franklin, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

That said, the presence of brown bears in the Western Pyrenees remains limited, with only two recorded sightings, that of Neré and another male named Canelito. Their numbers are stronger, however, in the Central Pyrenees at around forty. In Nafarroa these sightings have been recorded in the area around the villages Garde and Urzainki, and Mount Ezkaurre.

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Mount Ezkaurre, Nafarroa. Photo by ga, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

As noted, the reintroduction of these bears has been part of a coordinated program on both sides of the Pyrenees among different public administrations. It is hoped that the program will encourage so-called green or nature tourism. Should the bears attack any livestock in the area the Government of Nafarroa will recompense local farmers for any losses incurred.

Read more on the brown bear in the Erronkari/Roncal Valley here.

Cutting-edge Basque technology to harness wave energy premiered

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World Wave Energy Resource Map. By Ingvald Straume. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In a recent post we mentioned the fifth anniversary of the groundbreaking Mutriku Wave Energy Plant in Gipuzkoa and it would seem that the Basque Country is indeed at the forefront when it comes to harnessing the sustainable energy of the ocean.

Just today, the Basque company Navacel announced that it will produce a wave energy sensor device, sponsored by the Basque Country Energy Agency and designed by Oceantec Energy, which will be tested this Fall in the marine testing platform Bimep, located in Armintza-Lemoiz (Bizkaia).

The sensor will be made up of three steel plates in the shape of a buoy, with internal mechanical and electrical equipment capable of generating energy out of wave movement. The device will be 42 meters in length, 5 meters in diameter, and weigh some 80 tons. Two turbines located in the upper part of the device will generate the energy.

See a report on this new device (in Spanish) in the Basque daily Deia here.

Mutriku Wave Energy Plant celebrates fifth anniversary

Yesterday, July 18, the Mutriku Wave Energy Plant in Gipuzkoa, the world’s first breakwater wave power plant with a multiple turbine arrangement, run by the Basque Country Energy Agency, celebrated its fifth anniversary. The relatively scarce development of oceanic wave energy makes the Mutriku site a pioneer project at the global level.

The Mutriku Wave Energy Plant has just produced its first gigawatt of electricity from the breakwaters of the Mutriku harbor, enough to supply a hundred homes. But the plant is also also an experimental site, used to test out turbines and auxiliary equipment.

As regards the technical specifications, the plant itself is a hollow, trapezoidal structure with a submerged front opening and an opening at the top. The front opening is 3.20m high and four meters wide. Each of the 16 air chambers in the hollow structure houses a turbine weighing 1,200kg. The turbines are 2.83m high and four meters wide, and work with air. They do not, however, contain a gearbox, hydraulics, or pitching blades.The 16 turbines are connected to an 18.5kW turbo generator. A butterfly valve at the bottom of the generator enables isolation of the generator from the turbines whenever required. Any salts or impurities blocking the blades are removed by injecting fresh water. The plant is also installed with control and power conditioning equipment. The voltage of the current is stepped up using a transformer near the plant. Generated power is transferred through a transmission line.

For further and more detailed information on the project, see “Mutriku Wave Power Plant: From The Thinking Out to The Reality.”

If you’re interested in this topic, check out the Center publication Sustainable Development, Ecological Complexity, and Environmental Values, edited by Ignacio Ayestarán and Miren Onaindia. This is a fascinating study of how global issues such as sustainability are addressed at the local scale, in this case in the Basque Country.

5,000-year-old Livestock Pens Found in Araba

117205_webA join research and exploration initiative between the University of Basque Country (UPV-EHU), the University of Barcelona, and the CSIC-National Research Council, led by UPV-EHU Professor of Prehistory Javier Fernández-Eraso, has discovered 5,000-year-old livestock pens in Araba.

The find demonstrates the use of rock-shelters as encloses for sheep and goats by agropastoral communities during the Chalcolothic period (also known as the Copper Age) in the Basque Country and across the northwestern Iberian Peninsula. The find also complements previous research conducted by the same team, which documented the presence of livestock enclosures dating back to the Neolithic Era, approximately 6,000 years ago.

arqueologia_700Ana Polo-Díaz, a researcher at the University of Basque Country’s Department of Geography, Prehistory, and Archeology added, “This is a piece of pioneering work in the studies on agropastoral communities on the Iberian Peninsula. We have evidence that the human groups that occupied San Cristóbal during the Chalcolithic used the shelter as a pen for goats and/or sheep and that this use, although repetitive throughout hundreds of years, was not ongoing but of a temporary nature linked to a seasonal exploitation of the rich natural resources available on the Sierra de Cantabria. We also know thanks to the microscopic study of the sediments that every now and again they used to burn the debris that had built up, probably to clean up the space that had been occupied and that this combustion process was carried out in line with some specific habits: they used to pile up the debris and on top of them pile up wood remains, perhaps to help to get the fire going before going on to burn the debris.”

See a report on the find here.

 

Tales from Basques in the United States: How Basques saved the Paiute cutthroat trout

We continue today with our occasional series on the sometimes offbeat or downright quirky stories in the 2-volume work, Basques in the United States, with principal research by Koldo San Sebastián, and with the assistance of Argitxu Camus-Etxekopar, Joxe Mallea-Olaetxe, Jone Laka, and José Luis Madarieta and more.

Basques in the US vol 2

From the Wikipedia description here, the Paiute cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki seleniris) is one of fourteen subspecies of cutthroat trout native only to Silver King Creek, a headwater tributary of the Carson River in the Sierra Nevada, in California. This subspecies is named after the indigenous Northern Paiute peoples. Today, Paiute cutthroat trout are endemic to and protected within the Carson Ranger District of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, but they would have disappeared altogether were it not for Basques! Here, then, is theis amazing story adapted from the biography (abridged from the original entry in Basques in the United States, volume 2) of Jose “Joe” Jaunsaras:

He was born in Irurita, in the Baztan Valley of Nafarroa, on Oct. 7, 1893 and emigrated to the United States, arriving in New York City on Mar. 21, 1912. He went to Reno to join his brother Martin. In 1920 he was herding sheep in the Smith Valley, Lyon Co., Nevada. In 1930, he was a sheepherder in Simpson. From ca. 1917–22 he also worked for W. S. Conwell of Coleville in the Carson Iceberg area of California, where he and another herder, Jose “Joe” Azcarraga (b. Lekaroz, also in the Baztan Valley of Nafarroa, 1891) are credited for saving the pure strain of the Paiute trout.

It happened near Llewellyn Falls, where a severe downpour had disrupted the creek bed, leaving a bunch of fish dying in a small pool of water. The two Basque herders took a number of them in a bucket and transplanted them higher up in the creek where there was enough water. The trout mixed with other species in the creek. Only the ones transported in the bucket by the two herders proved to be the pure strain. Today, there is a wooden sign by a trail in the Toiyabe National Forest that tells the story of the Paiute Trout. One day California Fish & Game officials paid Jaunsaras a visit. They wanted to fly him back to where the Basques were herding sheep to show them exactly the place where they saved the trout, but when Joe saw the helicopter, he thought it was a big mosquito, and refused to get in!

We intend for this work to be more than just an encyclopedic reference; we’d like it to be a true forum for sharing stories and anecdotes about the thousands of Basque women and men who forged new lives for themselves in the US.

If you’d like to share your own family stories with us, please click here at our dedicated Basques in the United States Project website.

 

Race to save wild Basque cattle in Iparralde

A report (in French) in Sud-Ouest on October 24 notes that the Iparraldeko Betizuak association, an organization dedicated to protecting the remaining wild Basque cattle or betizuak in Iparralde, has been officially dissolved by its head, Iban Seiliez, in an attempt to “make the state and [different] bodies face up to their responsibilities.”

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A betizu on Mount Xoldokogaina, Biriatu, Lapurdi. Photo by Seiliez, via Wikimedia Commons

The betizu–from the Basque behi izua or “elusive cow”–is a breed that still inhabits parts of the Basque Country, mainly in Iparralde and Navarre, numbering perhaps 600 in total truly wild cattle (there are domesticated betizuak throughout the Basque Country). In Iparralde, where there are around 100, they are to be found mainly on the slopes surrounding  Mount Larrun (or Larhun; La Rhûne in French), the Ibardin Pass and Mount Arranomendi (Mondarrain in French), two areas of southern and southastern Lapurdi. According to Seiliez, “it’s one of the oldest breeds in Europe. It was almost made extinct in the 1920s because wild cattle were slaughtered during construction of the Larrun train.” Its characteristics are described here.

For Seiliez, “I think the objective of the association’s goal, which was to promote coexistence between the betizu and other mountain users, has not been achieved. Instead, we have disempowered the authorities.” He thus found it necessary to dissolve the association as a means of forcing more involvement from the authorities. “The betizu is unique in Europe,” he concludes,  which “needs a sustainable management plan and a proper status . . . the authorities must assume this responsibility.” The provincial government of Navarre, for example, established a conservation plan for the breed, ceding land from an abandoned farm in the Urraulgoiti Valley for 45 animals to live in at least “semi-freedom.”

Betizu cattle, known alternately as behigorri (red cow), zezengorri (red bull), and txahalgorri (red calf), were important in Basque mythology as spirits that took animal form in order guard important caves. There are theories, moreover, that link this breed to those cattle represented in the parietal art or cave paintings of Europe’s most famous sites (though many of these paintings actually depict a now extinct type of bison, in some sites there are representations of bulls portrayed in a noticeably reddish color reminiscent of the betizuak). Regarding this mythological status of the betizuak, as noted in the Selected Writings of José Miguel de Barandiarán: Basque Prehistory and Ethnography:

They did not allow anyone to enter their dwelling place. In certain cases they kidnap young people who have been the target of some curse and hold them captive in their underground dens . . . It is useful to recall that the same figures that are situated by Basque mythology in caverns also appear painted or engraved by men of the Magdalenian period and earlier on the walls of some of the caves of our country.

In short, these are animals that have been extremely important in Basque culture for thousands of years. One can only hope that a solution is found to help them survive in what is their land as well.

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