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On safari in the Doñana: National Park celebrates 50th birthday
27 May 2019 @ 13:54

HALF A CENTURY ago, two young men begged Europe to stop a wetland in southern Spain from being wiped out by wealthy landowners exploiting the area for eucalyptus and rice farming – and the Doñana National Park, now one of the continents most treasured natural conservation areas, was born.

Bird-watcher and animal-lover Mauricio González-Gordon, 26, and his friend José Antonio Valverde, aged 23, sick, impoverished and having barely been to school, started the wheels in motion on what would become the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Spanish Ornithology Society (SEO) as well as saving what is now – according to the International Union for Nature Conservation's Green List - one of the 25 best-preserved natural beauty zones on earth.

By 1969, it had been designated as a National Park, and by 1994, a UNESCO natural heritage site.

Spanning three provinces – those of Cádiz, Sevilla and Huelva, where most of it is based – taking up 543 square kilometres of marshes, sand dunes and streams and flowing into the river Guadalquivir delta in the Atlantic Ocean, and twinned with southern France's Camargue Natural Regional Park (famous for its grey horses roaming wild), the Doñana was named after the wife of the VII Duke of Medina-Sidonia, Doña Ana de Silva y Mendoza (Doña being a respectful form of address for females).



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