Spain uses goats and sheep to fight wildfires

Sheep looks into camera, with green grass
Sheep, photo: Canva

Barcelona has ’employed’ 290 sheep and goats to reduce the risk of wildfires by clearing vegetation in an environmentally friendly way.

“The biggest challenge is re-educating people about rural life,” said shepherd Daniel Sanchez while taking the animals out to graze at the Collserola National Park on the outskirts of Barcelona.

Sanchez moved to Barcelona from the small town of Sant Llorenc Savall to look after the herd. He sleeps in a shed in the park near the animals.

The park is 22 times bigger than New York’s Central Park and eight times larger than the Bois de Boulogne in Paris. The park is popular with hikers, joggers, cyclists and people out for a walk.

“Every year it [the park] catches fire,” said Sergi Dominguez, who was in the park walking his dog. The goats and sheep “eat the scrub, and that is the best thing that can happen”, Dominguez added, pointing to the dry vegetation.

The project will end in June. If it is considered a success, authorities may expand it to other green areas. Ferran Paune, the biologist in charge of the project, said the area posed a “very high risk of wildfires”.

“We are in a Mediterranean zone. On top of that, it’s overcrowded, with many urban areas and people living in woodland,” he added. “This natural park could burn completely in just eight hours, which could cause a very serious problem.”

The animals appear to have adapted “perfectly” to the urban park, Paune mentioned. But shepherd Sanchez said he was “getting tired” of the city noise and the night-time light pollution.

“I think I hear a sheep screaming, and then I realise it’s actually an ambulance siren,” he said. “Or I want to listen to the herd and there’s a hospital helicopter coming into the land.”

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