For as long as I’ve lived on Tenerife, I’ve heard about the mouflon that live in Teide National Park. Despite the fact that they are obviously very real, and friends have even seen them, I have never seen sight nor sound of one, and they have remained in my mind, a sort of Tenerife legend. Ironic then that I should find myself strolling a lakeside path in the Austrian Tyrol two weeks ago, only to stumble across several mouflon. So illusive are these island inhabitants that I had to travel half way across Europe to see one.
One of two species who are the ancestors of all modern sheep, just 11 Corsican mouflon (Ovis Musimon) were first brought to Tenerife as game for hunting in 1970 and over the course of the next 17 years, happily set about colonising their new home. It wasn’t until someone noticed that the mouflon were particularly partial to some of the park’s most prized and endangered plant species that controls were introduced. Today, there’s a plan to completely eradicate the species.
I don’t think I’ve been extremely unobservant, or unlucky, never to have seen one, the fact is mouflon are very difficult to spot which makes them also difficult to track. Timid and with a keen sense of smell, they keep well away from humans and blend easily with the type of ground they feel most at home on, lava.
It’s not just their prowess at remaining hidden that makes these creatures almost mythical, they also have a bit of a look of something created for a SciFi movie. The male mouflon has splendid horns that grow almost to a complete circle and can actually pierce the animal’s back. Some of the larger specimens are particularly Jurassic in appearance.
The number of mouflon in Teide National Park is constantly monitored and an annual census is held to determine if the plan to eradicate them is working. In order to track the animals, a live mouflon is caught and fitted with a collar that has an inbuilt radio transmitter. Once released, the animal returns to the herd which enables the authorities to track the rest of the group. The mouflon in the collar is known rather unkindly as cabra Judas – the Judas goat.
From time to time, usually during May and November, walking trails within the park are closed off for random days while the authorities carry out a cull of the herds which census records now show, are in sharp decline, which means it’s even less likely that you’ll spot one on Tenerife. So if, like me, you have yet to lay eyes on a mouflon, I know a place in the Austrian Tyrol where you’re pretty much guaranteed to see one…
Category : about tenerife
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