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Alfonso XII posing with hunting result

History of Doñana

By José Antonio Sánchez Iglesias

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From Royal hunting area to National Park

The origins of Doñana as a region go back to ancient times. About 10 centuries before Christ some very old texts placed the mythical Tartessos in this area. Civilizations like Etruscans, Phoenicians and Greeks left their prints in the National Park. Today it’s still possible to find some important Roman remains hidden in the sands. In Roman times there still was a large inner lake called Lacus Ligustinus surrounded by the Guadalquivir River and its tributaries and the coastal sand bars to the south.After an historical parenthesis, the king Alfonso X The Wise, gives away a part of the Guadalquivir Marshes to the City of Seville in 1255.

      • 1262
        Book of the Hunt, XIII century

        Book of the Hunt, XIII century

        Alfonso X El Sabio after winning the mudejar kingdom of Niebla to Aben-Mehafut he set up a Royal Hunting Place at La Rocina Forests and order two small sanctuaries to be built, one next to Santa Olalla Lagoon and another close to the marshes.

      • 1294
        His son, Sancho IV El Bravo, confers upon the Duke of Medina Sidonia (Alonso Pérez de Guzman) the lordship of Sanlucar de Barrameda and the lands lying between and the Guadalquivir River mouth as a reward for his heroic defence of the Tarifa stronghold from the Moorish.
      • 1493
        The Catholic Monarchs (Isabella of Castile and Fernando of Aragon) gave his Secretary of Finances, Esteban Perez, some of these lands near the Madre de las Marismas, where today the village of El Rocío is located.
        Some years later the Council of the City of Almonte buy it from his son.
      • 1495
        The third Duke of Medina Sidonia decides to put in productivity the forests and introduces reed deer for hunting. He also organizes a beating to get rid of the wolves in the area in order to encourage cattle grazing in the marshes.
      • 1585
        Alonso Pérez de Guzmán, the VII Duke of Medina Sidonia,
The hunt of the wild boar

The hunt of the wild boar

buy the lands of his ancestors from the City of Almonte up to the Madre de las Marismas. He was married to Mrs. Ana de Mendoza y Silva, daughter of Eboli´s Princess. Ashamed of her mother’s libertine life at the royal court, she moves to the Duke’s game reserve where he build an appropriate house for her. It was then when the area starts being called the Coto (Spanish for hunting ground) of Doña (Spanish for Mrs.) Ana, later Doñana.

  • 1599
    The name of Doñana is found for the first time on a document.
  • 1624
    The king Felipe IV visits the Coto for hunting. This is a landmark in Doñana´s history. The old Casa del Bosque is deeply refurbished up to the present Palacio de Doñana.

 

Coto de Doña Ana s. XVIII

Coto de Doña Ana on XVIII century

  • 1737
    After the success of La Algaida, shifting sand ridges, the Duke of Medina-Sidonia introduces the pine in Doñana in order to encourage forestry activities of the woodland.
  • 1797
    Goya makes in Doñana a portrait of the Duchess of Alba, married in that time to the owner of the Coto, José María Alvarez de Toledo. It is said that he also painted here the famous pictures of “Las Majas” and that the Duchess could have posed for the painter again for them.
  • 1829
    Several dromedaries are brought to the area to work as beasts of burden in the construction of a road.
  • 1854
    First mention on a printed document of the Avifauna of Doñana: “Catálogo de las aves observadas en algunas provincias andaluzas” (Catalogue of the birds watched in some Andalusian Provinces) by Antonio Machado y Núñez.
  • 1872
    The hunters society “Los Escriturarios”, made up of aristocrats from Cadiz and Jerez , hire hunting until 1912 in the Coto de Doñana. Along with the hunting activities of the rich a number of land-plot holders, hut builders, river fishermen and charcoal workers subsist in very poor conditions.
  • 1883
    The king Alfonso XIII hunting a wild boar in Doñana

    The king Alfonso XIII hunting a wild boar in Doñana

    First visit of Abel Chapman (hunter, naturalist and writer), English egg collectors know about the marvellous Spanish far south. He is the first to point out the Euro African character of Doñana and its importance for the migratory birds.

  • 1899
    First photographs of Doñana´s wildlife by R. B. Lodge. This is to be considered like the first visit to Doñana with a constructive purpose.
  • 1900
    Mr. Guillermo Garvey buy El Coto from the Count of Niebla, last representative of the House of Medina Sidonia. Hunting start becoming a profitable business.
  • 1909The Duke of Tarifa brings another golden era to Doñana. He enlarges the Palace and build the Pier of La Plancha. He also supports and finances Adolfo Shulten works in his search without success of Tartessos signs in the Guadalquivir River mouth. The king Alfonso XIII is often seen hunting in Doñana.
    Old location map of La Plancha Pier

    La Plancha Pier

  • 1912
    Fallow Deer is introduced in Doñana for hunting.
  • 1923
    First projects to transform part of the marshes into farmland by Islas del Río Guadalquivir Limited. Finally and after several failures, rice is chosen as the ideal crop for the poor soils of the marshes.
Hunting party at the Marismillas Palace, beginning of XX century

Hunting party at the Marismillas Palace,
beginning of XX century

  • 1934
    First project for building a road connecting Cádiz and Huelva provinces across the Coto.
  • 1951
    The last wolf is killed by a warden and congratulated for it.
  • 1952
    In one side, the newly established dictatorship was of the opinion to make empty lands profitable for the sake of people and finances. In the other side naturalist and nature lovers wanted to preserve the biological values for the future. They get to slow down the eucalyptus planting projects. The fight for the preservation of Doñana has started.
    José Antonio Valverde is invited by Francisco Bernis for an expedition to Doñana. They meet Mauricio Gonzalez-Gordon who is of a great help to carry out some studies on the birds of Doñana. This is the germ of the SEO (Spanish Ornithological Society), eventually founded in 1954. Guy Mountfort is invited to join a French expedition to the area.
  • 1957
    One of the scientific expeditions to Doñana in the 1950´s

    One of the scientific expeditions to Doñana in the 1950´s

    José A.Valverde is invited to the second British scientific expedition.

  • 1959
    The society “Coto del Palacio de Doñana S.A.” sells out the land to build the tourist urbanization of Matalascañas and a tarmac road connecting it with El Rocío is built. Tourism industry is starting to push hard in the area.
  • 1961
    A growing consciousness in Europe of the need to protect the area. An anonymous Swiss donor, offers to the Spanish government more than 8 million pesetas to buy properties in the area. In May, the World Wildlife Fund is created in London by J. A. Valverde and G. Mountfort among others. They offer 11 million pesetas for Las Nuevas State.Leo Biaggi, a well-off Italian, come forward and buy it for 14 million pesetas .
  • 1963
    WWF and Spanish government buy at last 6,300 has. of forests and marshes for more than 33 million pesetas and creates the Doñana Reserve.
  • 1965
    The Doñana Biological Station is founded in order to manage the protected area and J.A.Valverde is named its director.
José Antonio Valverde en 1964

José Antonio Valverde

  • 1969
    A piece of 3,200 has. of marshland is bought by the WWF and the Guadiamar Reserve is created. Doñana National Park is founded with an extension of 35,000 has. The Biological Reserve is still under the ownership and management of the Ministry of Education and Science but the lands around it, included in the National Park, are owned privately and controlled by the Ministry of Agriculture through ICONA (Institute for the Conservation of Nature)
  • 1972
    An agricultural plan of the government to put in productivity large parts of the marshes and plains surrounding the Reserve is a new threat to the conservation of the species. The Guadiamar River, one of the main sources of water for the marshes is channelized.
  • 1973
    60,000 birds get killed at Las Nuevas by the polluted and salty water from the Guadalquivir River used to flood the marshes to attract birds for hunting.
Guy Mountfort

Guy Mountfort

  • 1974
    Leo Biaggi sells out Las Nuevas State for 90 million pesetas to be exploited as a goose hunting ground. 200 kg of American Red Swamp Crayfish (Procambarus clarkii) are introduced in Isla Mayor Rice Fields in order to replace the decreasing populations of the native species. The expected positive effects on the local economy turned into high losses for damages to the hydrologic system and worsen rapidly the situation of the local crayfish.
  • 1978
    The National Park is enlarged up to 50,720 has. and a buffer area of some 22,000 has. called Prepark is created around it.
  • 1980
    Doñana is classified by UNESCO as a Biosphere Reserve. First plans for the hydrologic regeneration of Doñana.
  • 1982
    Doñana is included in the RAMSAR Convention List.
  • 1984
    First Use and Management Plan for the National Park is approved.

    Poster of the first WWF campaign

    Poster of the first WWF campaign

  • 1985
    Doñana receives the European Management Award. Later again on 1990 and 1995.
  • 1986
    A new high death toll of about 30,000 birds.
  • 1988
    Doñana is classified as a Zone for a Special Protection of Birds (ZEPA).
  • 1989
    Doñana Natural Park, with some 54,000 has., is created by the Andalusia regional government.
  • 1990
    Hard social opposition against the urbanization of coastal areas contemplated on the “Costa Doñana Project“.
  • 1993
    A Plan for the Sustainable Socioeconomic Development of Doñana area is approved with funds from Spain and the European Community.
  • 1994
    Doñana is classified as a World Heritage Site by Unesco.

    World Heritage Site logo

    World Heritage Site logo

  • 1998
    A mine accident at Aznalcollar causes the spillage of many thousands tons of toxic mud into the Guadiamar River. Emergency measures are taken to protect Doñana and clean up the river bed. The “Doñana 2005” and “Corredor Verde” projects are approved in order to regenerate the hydrologic system in the area.
  • 2000
    The European Council decides to renew the European Management Award.
  • 2002
    The ZEPA is enlarged to include the Natural Park. Spanish Supreme Court decides to impose sanctions of about 45 million euro in fines and compensations on Boliden Swedish company for the Aznalcollar dam burst disaster. Boliden appeals the decision.
  • 2003
    José Antonio Valverde dies in Seville on April 13th aged 77.

    José Antonio Valverde

    José Antonio Valverde

  • 2005
    The National Park is enlarged up to 54,120 has.
    The Natural Park is also enlarged up to 53,835 has. and included in the list of Ramsar sites.
  • 2006
    Spanish Court maintain most of the sanctions imposed on Boliden reducing only in 1,3 million over the original amount.In July the competences in the management of the National Park are transferred from the National government to the regional administration. Thus it will be the Junta de Andalusia who will manage both parks from now on. We start talking about Doñana Natural Site in contraposition to National and Natural Park, which in the other hand will keep on existing as such.
  • 2009
    We commemorate the 40th anniversary of the foundation of the National Park.
  • 2016
    The National Park is enlarged up to 68,236 has., putting the total extension of the Doñana Natural Site up to 128,386 has.

About José Antonio Sánchez Iglesias

José Antonio Sánchez se licenció en Biología por la Universidad de Sevilla en 1985. Más tarde, durante varios años, se dedicó a organizar y guiar rutas de senderismo y naturaleza ...

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