The Barbary sheep (Ammotragus lervia), also known as the arrui, is a species of wild sheep native to the arid regions of North Africa, including the Atlas Mountains and the Sahara Desert. It was introduced into Spain in the 1970s for hunting purposes. It has since established populations in several regions of the country, such as Andalusia, Castilla-La Mancha, and Murcia feeding on grasses, bushes, and lichens.
The largest free-range population in Spain is found in the Southeast of Spain, mostly from the Sierra Espuña to the Sierra Cazorla. In Spanish it is called arruí, muflón del Atlas or carnero de berbería.
The Barbary sheep is an introduced game species that thrives in the dry and rocky habitats of Spain’s mountainous areas and semi-arid regions. Originally from Africa, it has become one of the most successful introductions in the country, with a population of around 50,000 individuals. It is prized by hunters for its impressive horns and meat. In Spain, it is managed as an (invasive) game species.
However, this success also poses several challenges for the Barbary sheep and its environment. The species competes with native wildlife for resources, conflicts with agriculture and livestock activities, and may transmit diseases from domestic animals. Moreover, it may harm the local flora and fauna as an invasive species in some areas.
The Spanish government regulates the hunting of Barbary sheep to control its numbers and ensure its sustainability. Conservation measures are also implemented to monitor the population and to reduce the negative impacts of the species on the environment and the native wildlife.
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