“In the fragile skin of ecosystems, do not spare a single syllable, a single letter, no species is expendable”. (JV Barcia)
If you think about the endangered species of Iberian Peninsula, there is a name that surely will not come to your mind. However, its status is so grave that is about to overtake the Iberian lynx in index of species at risk of exticntion. It is the European mink.
THE FRAGILE SKIN OF RIVERS
The European mink (Mustela lutreola) is critically endangered according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Over the last 2 decades its population has suffered a decline of such magnitude that is currently the second most endangered mammal in Europe.
It is a small semi-aquatic mammal that lives along the river banks. It is a carnivore, related to otters and ferrets. It feeds mainly on aquatic animals: fishes, frogs, crayfishes and water voles, but it can supplement its diet with insects, mollusks, or even waterfowl offspring.
This uniquely distinctive animal which inhabited almost the entire European continent (except Mediterranean islands and Scandinavia) until the mid-twentieth century, is currently distributed only in some areas of Russia, Romania, Estonia and in a small strip of Spain and France.
In our country, the European mink lives in rivers and shores of the Basque Country, Navarra, La Rioja, Castilla-Leon (Soria and Burgos) and Aragon (Zaragoza).
The better preserved populations of the world are found in the upper basin of the Ebro River. This is because the area remains largely free from the presence of its competitor: the American mink.
Their extinction may occur in less than 10 years unless an effective recovery plan is undertaken. The plan should involve actions on the river banks and the control of American mink’s populations. Introduced by the fur industry the American mink has established in the Iberian Peninsula becoming invasive. Besides outcompeting the European mink for food it is a carrier of a deadly disease with no vaccine available, which particularly affects the European species.
This small but greatly unknown species, unlike the Iberian lynx and wolf, has failed to trigger the social concern. A sum of 3-4 euros has been spent on conservation plans that have failed to halt the decline of the species. Its gradual disappearance occurs in a context of silent complicity. The European mink seems unworthy of the media’s attention, given the limited coverage of the problem.
1 – The high mortality due to human activity: hunting (snares and traps), collisions on roads (accounting for 23.3% of the detected mortality), and the mortality due to domestic animals (dogs, cats).
2 – The introduction (either by escape from fur farms or due to massive releases of individuals carried out by animal welfare activists) and spread of feral populations of American mink, which are a potential hazard because it can displace the native species,
3 – The Auletian Virus Disease (ADV), recently detected in Spanish minks, seems to be responsible for the global decrease that has suffered the native species in Europe.
4 – The Fragmentation and isolation of existing populations, together with the low stock (o number of individuals), hinder their reproductive chances and decrease the genetic variability.
5 – The high level of contamination of waterways where they live, and the transformation of river banks.
6 – The progressive destruction of suitable habitat because of canalizations, channeling, clearance of riparian vegetation and draining of wetlands.
Visibility and CHANGE OFAPPROACH
During the latest years, several regional authorities have received European funds for the conservation of the European mink (through the LiFE program), without being able to reverse the extinction of this species. None of these protection programs counted on the collaboration of collaboration of environmental protection organizations, some of which have continued to complain about the effectiveness of the actions taken.
Why it is important the European mink in the current context of social and environmental crisis and cuts in social and labour rights? Because if we do not act now, there will be no turning back. This is a chronicle of a death foretold.
The European mink is necessary, among other reasons, because it is an indicator of the fragile health of our rivers. All species coexist in eco-dependence. Therefore, the European mink calls for a change in our way of relating to the natural environment and who inhabits it.
OBJECTIVE: DIAGNOSIS AND ACTION
We have joined together from various environmental and social organizations of La Rioja, Navarra, Aragón, Castilla-León and the Basque Country to produce a participatory documentary. We will ask and listen to all the actors involved in the problem: the administrative authorities, the responsible for conservation programs, the experts, the fur farmers, the animal liberation organizations, the citizenship, etc., in order to visualize the situation, analyze the causes and launch a proposal for joint action.
Our goal with this crowdfunding is the production of informative audiovisual material that can be used as teaching tool for raising awareness of the status of the species, and the diffusion of both the problem and the possible solutions.
We want to ask every voice involved in the problem: the Ministry of Environment, responsible for LiFE program, the responsibles for programs at regional level, the conservation experts in European mink, the fur entrepreneurs breeding the American mink, the animal rights associations and civic organizations, and residents of the region.
The documentary will be disseminated through civic centers, internet, debates, TV and local media websites and schools. We also pretend to use it to forward the problem to international bodies and to bring pressure on institutions to ensure that effective actions are taken for its protection. We need to involve the citizens. But this is impossible without the disclosure of the problem.
The raised amount will be allocated to cover the costs of making the documentary. The minimum budget is € 7,200, but we have calculated that the ideal is 9,500, allowing us to deal with a higher (technical and graphic) bill, as well as distribution costs.
The tasks are: documentation, editing of the script, production, interviewing, video-recordings on the river banks, editing, post-production, labeling, etc. The video-recordings will be carried out in Navarra, Basque Country, Aragon and La Rioja.
In the event of collecting an amount greater than € 9,500, the surplus will fund volunteering within the campaign in defense of the European mink.
Crowdfunding: October 22 – November 30.
Research and development of the script: September 1 – November 15.
Video-Recording: December 1 to February 1.
Post-production of the documentary: March-April 2014.
Payment of rewards: May-June 2014.
The showing of the documentary will take place in civic centers, debates, TV, websites of organizations promoting the campaign, local media and schools. Moreover the documentary will be made available online for free use (Creative Commons online License).
We will also use it to bring the to international bodies and turn it into an element of institutional pressure to ensure that effective measures are taken for its protection. We need to involve the citizens. But this is impossible without the divulgation of the problem.
The loss of biodiversity in aquatic ecosystems leads us to an overview of dead rivers and riverbanks. This is a road of no return. Help us raise awareness of the European mink, help us to protect the biodiversity of the ecosystems of the Ebro River and the Atlantic region.
Time is running out. Join us.
This is a project initiated by Amigos de la Tierra, Cuenca Azul, Ekologistak Marchan Araba, FNCA, GEIB Grupo Especialista en Invasiones Biológicas, Global Nature, Nueva Cultura del Agua, SEO/Birdlife y WWF.