A Last Frontier for Endangered Species
BY AWAKE! WRITER IN SPAIN
PLANTS and animals face growing threats all over the world. Some scientists calculate that thousands of species become extinct every year. Fortunately, mountain ranges provide a vital refuge for plants and animals that used to flourish over wider areas. Even in these bastions, though, pollution and human encroachment pose a threat. Perhaps nowhere else is this more evident than in Europe, one of the most densely populated parts of the planet.
In the Pyrenees, a mountain range dividing France from Spain, several national parks serve to provide refuge for the local flora and fauna. In these protected areas, visitors get a chance to see what has become a last frontier for many endangered species. Let us look briefly at what these parks offer.
Species Fighting for Survival
Flowers. Some of the most beautiful wildflowers grow at altitudes above 5,000 feet [1,500 m]. Snow gentians and trumpet gentians (1), with their vivid-blue petals, carpet slopes well above the tree line. Farther down the slopes, nestled among beech trees, a grove of endangered lady’s-slipper orchids (2) still flourishes. Hundreds of nature lovers visit this grove every year, so local forestry wardens mount guard 14 hours a day to ensure that these precious flowers are not damaged or uprooted.
Butterflies. Unspoiled alpine meadows with abundant wildflowers provide a refuge for colorful butterflies. The large Apollo butterfly (3), with its vivid-red wing spots, flutters among the thistles. Smaller flowers receive constant visits from blue butterflies and copper butterflies (4) of the Lycaenidae family. Painted-lady and tortoiseshell butterflies briskly patrol the higher slopes.
Animals. Many of the larger mammals of Europe once roamed over vast tracts of the continent. But some have been hunted almost to extinction. Wolves, bears, lynx (5), bison, chamois, and mountain goats (6) now survive in just a few mountain ranges or in the far north. The majestic animals in these Pyrenean reserves offer a vivid reminder of the wildlife that once abounded in these mountains. Some thoughtful visitors wonder what the future holds for the few that remain.
We have reason to be confident that the Creator, Jehovah, the One “to whom the peaks of the mountains belong,” cares about the wildlife of the mountains. (Psalm 95:4) In one of the psalms, God says: “To me belongs every wild animal of the forest, the beasts upon a thousand mountains. I well know every winged creature of the mountains.” (Psalm 50:10, 11) Jehovah’s concern for the earth and its creatures gives us every reason to believe that he will never allow the beasts of the mountains to disappear.
[Pictures on page 16, 17]
1 Trumpet gentian
2 Lady’s-slipper orchid
3 Apollo butterfly
4 Copper butterfly
6 Mountain goat