As the climate becomes drier and warmer, the risk of wildfires increases in many parts of the world. This prompted Barcelona to employ a whole new firefighting force: hundreds of four-legged grazing animals.
As part of a pilot project, several “fire flocks” of 290 sheep and goats were allowed to trample on as much vegetation as possible and graze in green areas around the municipality. A well-prepared patch can act as a fire escape that limits or makes it difficult for fires to continue to spread.
– We’re not inventing anything new here, Guillem Canaleta of the Pau Costa Foundation tells The Guardian.
The Pau Costa Foundation is a non-profit organization that has been using goats and sheep in the province of Girona since 2016.
What we do is restore something that was already there and disappears.
More young people are taking jobs as sponsors
Spain’s Catalonia is one of the regions hardest hit by wildfires this summer. In less than a day, a forest fire destroyed about 3,000 hectares, after temperatures soared above 40 degrees at the end of July. Barcelona now plans to expand the herds and allow them to graze in more green spaces in the city.
It also inspired more young men to take up jobs as shepherds and tend to flocks of fire. Earlier in June, about 20 young people attended the so-called Shepherd School in Barcelona, which was the American radio station the scientist reports on.
One of them, 35-year-old Danny Sanchez, told The World that his flock could clear the woods better than any other machine.
– My sheep and goats are firefighters. Danny Sanchez says they are our firewall
But he also believes that in order to make a big difference, bigger and bigger herds are needed.
Other countries try similar methods
Spain isn’t alone in using four-legged firefighters.
In California, dozens of companies began renting out their goats to protect natural areas from fires, and in Portugal, 45 horses were praised for saving a nature reserve from a forest fire in 2017. In Canada, too, they began using livestock and controlling grasslands.
Julia Roet Leduc, a researcher at the German Center for Integrative Biodiversity at the University of Leipzig, believes that these forms of targeted grazing can be particularly effective when paired with other methods of forest fire prevention.
– Not a miracle solution. But she tells the Guardian this is part of a solution that could help landscapes become more fire-resistant.
Read also: Exceptionally severe forest fires in France
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