This week we travel through Els Ports Natural Park, in the province of Tarragona. Declared in 2001, with a surface area of 35,050 hectares, this natural park is part of the Natura 2000 Network and, together with the neighbouring Delta de l’Ebre Natural Park it is also part of the Biosphere Reserve Terres de l’Ebre.

Thanks to its geographical position, halfway between the Catalan Pre-Coastal mountain range and the Iberian Mountain Range and its abrupt relief, with deep ravines, rivers embedded in rocky canyons, large cliffs, limestone plateaus and conglomerate monoliths, the Els Ports massif is home to the largest sample of natural Mediterranean mountain environments in Catalonia and has served as a refuge for many plant species during the glaciations. It currently has more than 1,300 species, some of which are endemic. Here we also find the southernmost relict beech forest in Europe, protected within the Partial Nature Reserve of Els Ports beech forests.

With more than 20 species of bats, 50% of the amphibian and reptile species in Catalonia and a large number of birds of prey, Els Ports hosts a wide diversity of fauna species, thanks to the diversity of habitats it offers. However, the most iconic animal in Els Ports is undoubtedly the Iberian ibex. In fact, this natural park was born from an old Hunting Reserve created in 1966 with the aim of preventing the extinction and promoting the regulated hunting of the last population of ibex in this mountain massif.

The different municipalities that make up the Els Ports Natural Park have several visitor centres and information points to attend to the 250,000 people who visit Els Ports every year, and the park has a multitude of footpaths and an important network of mountain refuges and lodges for those who wish to visit this natural park in a more intense and intimate way.

Today we meet Francisco Blanquet. A passionate horse breeder who enjoys raising his horses in the wild in the Els Ports Natural Park. Following the family tradition, with more than 40 years in the meat sector, the mad cow crisis of 1996 encouraged him to start raising foals for meat in extensive farming, and today he tells us about his professional and, above all, emotional connection with this protected area.