Columbretes Islands

Columbretes Islands

The Columbretes Islands are a group of small uninhabited islets of volcanic origin, in the Mediterranean Sea, 49 kilometres off Oropesa del Mar. Administratively they belong to Castelló de la Plana municipality, Valencian Community, Spain.

The main islets are Illa Grossa, La Ferrera, La Foradada and El Carallot. The total emerged area of all four is around 0.19 km2 (0.07 sq mi) and the highest point is 67 metres (220 feet) above sea level. Illa Grossa, by far the largest, is the northernmost island of the group. It stands in the place of an ancient crater and shows a distinctive semi-circular pattern. There are no buildings on it, except for a 19th-century lighthouse, a jetty and the staff quarters used by the biologists working in the wildlife reserve.

These islands were known by Greeks and Romans from ancient times. Writers such as Strabo or Pliny the Elder cited the astonishing number of snakes inhabiting them. The names Ophiusa and Colubraria by which they were named (meaning serpent in Greek and Latin, respectively) refer to that fact. The islands owe their present name to "Colubraria", the Latin word for "snake".

After a lighthouse was built on Illa Grossa in the mid-19th century, a few people were settled on it. The small community looked after maintenance of the lighthouse and helped to deter smugglers who used the islets as a refuge. Farm animals including pigs were introduced. This, combined with aggressive practices such as the burning of the original bushy vegetation of the lighthouse island (partly for agricultural uses and also to deliberately deprive the numerous endemic snub-nosed vipers of their natural habitat), caused the snakes to become extinct by the end of the 19th century.

Since 1988 the archipelago has been declared a wildlife reserve. It is as an optimal place for the reproductive activities of certain sea birds.
The submerged area around the islands is as relevant in terms of conservation as the area above the surface. It covers an area of 400 square kilometres (154 sq mi) where an important community of submarine wildlife thrives undisturbed. It became protected as a Marine reserve in 1990.


30 Mayo 2017


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