Since its foundation, SCI Lusitania Chapter sought to support a wildlife conservation project in Portugal. This project would rely on scientific support or be developed by an entity of this nature, be recognized by the pertinent official government entities and, preferably, the actions resulting from the project would prove to be an asset in the national hunting scene.
The Chapter gave notice of intent to support several Portuguese entities with existing or planned projects in the described areas, and received three proposals. Each of these projects required financial support, however, only one had the potential for delivering short term positive results that could directly benefit a species that had been removed from the list of “free ranging” hunting species in Portugal–the roe deer.
This little deer was almost extinct in Portugal during the first eight decades of the past century, but like other species of large game, the so-called “elves of the forest” are back. Still, there are few fenced areas where hunting roe deer in our country is permited, but their “free ranging” presence is beginning to justify their hunting in open areas, too.
Grijó and Vilar do Monte Hunters Association is the managing body of a hunting area that occupies part of the western slope of the Bornes Mountain, corresponding to the parishes of Grijó and Vilar do Monte, in Macedo de Cavaleiros. This association has a fenced area of 35 hectares in Serra de Bornes, dedicated to wildlife research and development, breeding and monitoring of the roe deer. The breeding of roe deer in this controlled environment allows for the efficient study and evaluation of these animals, as well as their monitoring after release to the wild.
The Grijó Hunters Association signed protocols with ICNF – Conservation Institute for Nature and Forest – and UTAD – University of Tras-os-Montes and Alto Douro – entities that coordinate the studies and academic internships developed in this natural laboratory.
To continue the research work and monitoring of the roe deer in the Serra de Bornes, the association had to acquire in short order surveillance cameras, nets for capturing animals, tools for road clearing and maintenance, and conduct work on fire prevention, representing an investment of a few thousand euros.
The SCI Lusitania Chapter board of directors evaluated the proposal and began a series of informal meetings for clarification on the steps already taken by the association, deciding that the ongoing project met our objectives and deserved our support.
As we defined in our requirements, it was a project of nature conservation and hunting, had scientific support, included the required safeguard protocols and would result in the eventual development of a healthy roe deer population in hunting numbers.
Some visits to this hunting area quickly enabled us to conclude that the enormous effort of local hunters, headed by the president of the association, Mr. Raul Fernandes, and the extraordinary enthusiasm of students, trainees and teachers of the Department of Forestry and Landscape Architecture of UTAD led by Dr. Aurora Monzón, deserved our support. Therefore, we provided the required financial support.
But the dedication of those people also won our respect and recognition and deserved more than that. For that reason, we awarded them the SCI-Lusitania Chapter Nature Conservation Prize, which was presented during our gala dinner, on 9 May 2015. During the award ceremony Mr. Raul Fernandes gave us the big surprise of the night by announcing that roe deer hunting had been authorized in this free range area by the governmental authorities, from July 2015.
SCI Lusitania Chapter will continue to support the Grijó Hunters Association and the University of Tras-os-Montes and Alto Douro. Perhaps this is one of the first steps so that the history of the roe deer in Portugal has a happy ending.