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Vivere la campagna

The fauna

Stork and small horse on the Giara of Gesturi

They are the last survivors of a breed probably imported by Phoenician or Greek navigators. Once, the species used to populate the whole island; nowit has found in the Giara of Gesturi the ideal conditions to ensure its survival, thanks to the natural isolation offered by that place. Their features are a small size – 120 cm at the withers; a dark brown colour; a thick mane and the particular almond-shaped eyes, giving them a vaguely melancholic air. Now the small horses live in herds – amounting to over 700 exemplars – in the utmost freedom, strictly protected by rigid laws.

As Sardinian Deer are endemic to Sardinia, they present a few distinctive features compared to the Noble Deer of Continental areas, i.e. a darker coat and a smaller size. They live undisturbed in the thick Mediterranean maquis, although their areale is now quite limited: in the mountains of Linas and from the mountain to the sea along the coastlines of Arbus. Sardinian deer primarily feed on leaves and herbaceous plants. Females mainly live in herds with their fawns and the young, while males, characterized by their big antlers (horn-like, branched outgrowths) and their larger size, live a solitary life. In the mating season, from August till October, adult males gather in herds; in that period they engage spectacular fights to attract their mates. Fawns are born at the end of May.

It is a big, wild sheep of dark brown/reddish coat, provided with powerful, spiralled horns characterizing the male exemplars. Its stocky build and extraordinary musculature allow it to run and skip throughout impervious, steep and stony grounds, typical of Sardinian mountains. Almost disappeared in the ‘50s because of incessant poaching, it now inhabits the island territories, thanks to a repopulation campaign that has involved all Europe.

Bonelli’s eagle is extremely rare and difficult to spot, as it dwells in rocky and mostly inaccessible places. Its main feature is, indeed, an utmost mistrust towards the man. It is a reckless predator: its force, coupled with an unmistakable sight, allows it to fly high in the sky, to dive at great speeds onto its prey. As this is an endangered species, its nesting places are kept jealously secret, like the areas where it can be observed, although somebody says to have seen it among the harshest peaks of Mount Linas.

Sardinian partridge, the only species existing in the island, differs from the red one in that it is of a smaller size, with a typical brown collar and white dots. Perhaps this is the animal that has best adapted itself to the stony, dry and bushy environment dominating Sardinian landscapes. Widespread everywhere in the island territory, it stands as the symbol of this pre-historical land and of the agro-pastoral world, as it has always been close to shepherds’ and farmers’ culture.

This is the last great vulture surviving in Sardinia following the extinction of other species, caused by persecutions by those whom blamed them, wrongly, as the responsible for the death of goats and sheep. Therefore, until the ‘40s, the griffon could still be found in most mountain territories of the island and along the cliff faces falling straight onto the sea. Now they are mainly distributed among the mountains of the western coast and, in particular, in this province, among the trachytic sheer rock faces of Mount Mannu, where they can be seen gliding very high in the sky.

The Sardinian wild boar lives in the woodlands and forest of the whole island. It differs from other species due to its smaller size: continental species may weigh as much as 150 Kg, while the Sardinian one does not exceed 70 Kg. Most commonly widespread in mountainous areas, but also in plains behind marine areas, its uncontrolled expansion often causes serious ecological problems, although it remains an important species within the Sardinian ecosystem, as well as an unquestioned protagonist of the island and of the provincial fauna.

This species is now present since many years in Sardinia, although it has only been nesting since 1994, following climatic changes and an increase of drought in Spanish lagoon areas. These birds of migration arrive in Sardinia from northern France, to reach the ponds of Tunis and the lakes of Kenya and Tanzania. A number of colonies can be found in several coastal lagoons of the island, in the period from October to June; in this province, in particular, they are present in the lagoons of San Giovanni and of Santa Maria di Neapolis, along the coastline. The elegance of this wader, characterized by its most long legs and neck and by the beauty of its colours, from the white-pink plumage to the fuchsia-scarlet wings, make it unmistakable among the other birds, arising the interest and awe of its many admirers.

The Caretta-caretta, the most common among turtles, is a marine reptile privileging the open sea, rarely approaching the coasts, therefore it can hardly ever be seen. It is present in the Mediterranean and can be found along Sardinian coasts, in particular off the large beaches of Costa Verde. These animals move following particular routes, making most long journeys from the Mediterranean to the subtropical coasts of North America. Despite of the kilometres of desert beaches in Sardinia, the Caretta, unfortunately, does not nest there as it did in the past; close encounters have thus become very rare.

The Sardinian Cave Salamander (Speleomantes) is an amphibian of the order Urodela, of a tiny size (maximum 15 cm) and grey-maculated colour. It is endemic to Sardinia in four different species, due to geographic isolation. The Speleomantes Genei is typical of the territories of Iglesias and Arbus; its main feature is a reduced length, reaching 11 cm as a maximum. Its natural habitat are territories of karst origin, caves, dismissed mines, rocky gorges and wet, shady valleys. It is a both a nightly and light-seeking animal, which avoids dry places and can only be spotted in the open air in specially wet and rainy days.