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Bringing the Iberian Lynx back from the brink and protecting the wetlands for thousands of migratory birds; just two of many conservation efforts designed to protect one of Europe's most important ecosystems

UNESCO World Heritage Site Doñana National Park is an extraordinary natural paradise located in Andalusia, just an hour from the cultural and culinary wonder of Seville.

Bordering the northern bank of the River Guadalquivir where it reaches the Atlantic, Doñana boasts a beguiling array of  landscapes, ranging from shifting dunes and scrub woodland to vast pine forests, lagoons, marshland and untouched white sandy beaches.

Doñana is one of the most crucial centres of biodiversity in Europe; its wetlands are a sanctuary for wildlife, including 360 different species of domestic and migratory birds who use it as a stop-off point whilst travelling between Europe and West Africa – the Iberian Imperial Eagle, Marbled Teal, White Headed Duck, Black Tern and the Crested Coot all call the park and its woodlands and wetlands home.

The park is also home to one of the world’s most endangered cats, the mystical Iberian Lynx, amongst almost 40 different mammal species, another 40 reptiles and amphibians, and over 1,000 terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates.

Beyond its incredible animal residents, over 1,400 species of flora have been identified in Doñana, signifying 114 families of superior plants, some of which are endemic – found nowhere else on Earth – and new to science entirely.

As one of the largest surviving wetlands in Europe, with salt and freshwater marshes covering over half of the surface of the entire park, Doñana’s complex network of different ecosystems is entirely dependent on a steady water supply, both from the Guadalquivir itself, and an extensive underground aquifer system.

But with this incredible array of wildlife and flora dependent on a fragile and delicate array of complex ecosystems, the Park and the creatures that inhabit it are vulnerable, to climate change, habitat loss and other pressures.

Back from the brink: the Iberian lynx

The sandy Mediterranean scrubland, brushwood and open forests of Doñana make for an ideal habitat for the Iberian Lynx, but sadly this elusive feline is gravely endangered, its fragile habitat under threat from illegal farms and wells, mining, and river dredging.

In 2002 there were fewer than 100 left in the wild, leaving it incredibly vulnerable to extinction.

Led by the WWF, park authorities and supported by other conservation organisations, a network of camera traps have been installed to track the species and understand its habits and distribution, whilst radio collars are used to follow individuals; as elusive as it is, the lynx might now claim to be one of the most closely monitored species in the world.

Rabbits account for 90% of the lynx’s diet, but with disease ravaging the rabbit population and over 30 species in the park relying on rabbits as their primary food source, competition has intensified and lynxes and other forest species declined in number.

Efforts have therefore focused on boosting rabbit populations, in order to save the lynx and ensure growing populations remain viable.

In addition, through a successful countrywide breeding programme, captive-bred lynxes have been reintroduced into the wild, both in Doñana and other hand-selected areas across Spain and Portugal, enabling new populations to establish and survive while they are protected from threats posed by poaching, poisoning and road accidents; bridges have even been built across roads that cross the park and surrounding areas to help the lynx avoid traffic.

These concerted efforts have led to a growing hope that this species has a bright future ahead of it. Numbers have increased to about 1,600, and the lynx has begun to disperse throughout the Iberian peninsular beyond designated conservation areas; a remarkable recovery for this endangered species and testament to the hard work of dedicated conservationists in Doñana and beyond.

The park custodians are acutely aware of the need to protect the delicate ecosystems and wildlife within Doñana. Whilst conservation efforts focusing on charismatic large species catch the eye, protecting the natural environment is a crucial, though less glamorous, area of conservation focus and there are various projects aimed to do just that.

Mapping and management

Careful and preventative management strategies are vital in order to protect Doñana and secure its future in a world beset by global challenges; monitoring and research are key. ECOPOTENTIAL is an EU-funded project that uses satellite images to manage the park’s wetland and terrestrial ecosystems, allowing the impact of climate change and pollution to be assessed and science-based management policies to be implemented.

Conservation efforts have also supported programs to protect the lynx, Spanish Imperial Eagle and Marbled Teal, and the diversity of migratory and domestic waterbirds.

Water works

Water levels in the Doñana marshes have plummeted over the past 30 years, the result of damaging human activity encroaching in to the park.

Climate change, agriculture (including illegal wells sunk to feed fruit farms), tourism, mining pollution and dredging of the Guadalquivir River have all taken their toll. With an over-exploitation of regional aquifers leading to dangerously parched marshes, collective action has begun, spearheaded some years ago by WWF – who recognised that while agricultural and tourist activities are fundamental for the local area, they must be developed within a framework that guarantees the future of Doñana and protects its fragile ecosystems.

WWF has been collaborating with supermarket chains on sustainable sourcing of produce, and encouraging better practice amongst farmers to minimise their environmental impact.

In December 2023 the Spanish government took a significant environmental step by announcing a €1.4 billion investment deal to protect Doñana National Park. In a bold move that encourages farmers to move away from water-intensive crops towards more sustainable practices, it is hoped that the initiative will reduce the pressure on underground aquifers and protect Doñana’s prized ecosystems.

Swathes of land will also be reforested, guarding against environmental threats. Set against a backdrop of climate change and increasingly frequent droughts, the plan sets an important precedent for global environmental responsibility, showing how striking a careful balance between human need and ecological preservation can help preserve our natural resources for generations to come.

Low impact tourism

We are keenly aware of the importance of minimizing our impact on the unique ecosystems of Doñana National Park. Our riding and horse and carriage trips in to the park are a low impact way to enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the park and its surrounding landscapes, and provide the perfect vantage point to look out for lynx, deer, wild board and birds aplenty.

For further information on booking an unforgettable trip to Kukutana and discovering this mesmerising, unspoilt corner of Andalusia, do get in touch.


I’m struggling to put into words everything that we have experienced these past days, from the very first moment it has all been exceptional. The team and the hosts are marvellous, the experiences unforgettable - we will cherish these days forever.

Guest, Madrid

A unique experience surrounded by friends and hosted by this wonderful family who have poured their dreams and love into this project. The most memorable G&T in history! We will be back soon.

V.U. Madrid

The magic of southern Spain and the warmth with which we have been received have made these days unforgettable. What an incredible project you have created!

A.L. Germany

Thank you for the most magical few days in this piece of Paradise! It was the most memorable time and holiday that we have ever had. The food was delicious, the horses were beautiful and cannot believe that we saw a Lynx! We cannot thank you enough for all you have done. Hope to see you again soon and best luck for the creation and adventures that you plan.

J&M.H United Kingdom


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