Future uncertain for Peña Escrita Nature Park

ALMUÑECAR Town Hall is studying what to do with the Peña Escrita Nature Park which was opened in 1997 in the mountains above the town.

The former mayor, Juan Carlos Benavides, opened the park which cost almost €30 million to construct and which the current council says would be easier to manage if it was closer to the town.

It is 45 minutes away, accessible only by a narrow road which takes visitors 1,200 metres into the mountains to see a variety of animals, from tigers and wolves to hippos and ostriches.

The former mayor bought a minibus for €140,000 to carry visitors to the park, but the town hall says it is a bottomless pit with a yearly budget of more than €1 million which brings in very little revenue.

It was built in a forest area without a license, and even nowadays, it does not have a license to be run as a zoo. Many of the animals were seized by the Guardia Civil and taken to the park because there were no other options. Experts claim that the animals are not in the best conditions and that the climate is not suited to many of them.

There were 11 employees at the park, now there are just two, plus a vet and a biologist who visit on a regular basis to take care of the 150 animals of 32 different species.

Even if costs were cut to the minimum and the necessary repairs were not carried out, the park would still cost €300,000 per year which the town hall says it cannot afford.

The park has cabins, a restaurant and a pool, and does not cost too much, but even this does not attract enough visitors for it to pay for itself, especially when no money is even spent on advertising it is there.

Peña Escrita also owes fines for up to €400,000, for building roads and for the conditions the animals are in.

The town hall is hoping for help from the Junta de Andalucia to either make the park more attractive and economic to run, or convert it to a shelter for protected animals.

 Photo credit: Marcus and Sue
 By Jennifer Leighfield

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