Peña Negra, Extremadura

Province of Cáceres, Northern Spain

Peña Negra, Extremadura

Location: Piornal, Extremadura, Province of Cáceres, Western Spain

The spectacular landscapes of Peña Negra in Extremadura harbour Europe’s last truly free ranging horse population. These local horses, called Pottoka, are close relatives of the wild horses that once roamed the Iberian peninsula. TNF collaborates with ethologist and ‘horse whisperer’ Lucy Rees and the municipality of Piornal to restore the original megafauna and develop ecotourism opportunities in the area.

Project Partners

Pottokas in Extremadura

Wildlife Species


Pottoka Horses, Spanish ibex (Capra pyrenaica), Iberian ibex (Capra pyrenaica), Red deer (Cervus elaphus), Fallow deer (Dama dama), Wild boar (Sus Scrofa).


Iberian Wolves, Iberan lynx, Badger, Fox, Mongoose, Common genet.


Red-legged partridge (Alectoris rufa), Black Stork (Ciconia nigra), Golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), Spanish imperial eagle (Aquila adalberti), European honey buzzard (Pernis apivorus), Cinereous vulture (Aegypius monachus) and Griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus).



Ecological Restoration

Peña Negra is an engine of sustainable economic and social development, where:

  • The natural beauty, biodiversity values and cultural heritage are enhanced and conserved;
  • Local residents, national and international visitors enjoy and learn more about wildlife and the ecosystem at large;
  • Local communities and businesses prosper and benefit from Peña Negra’s natural resources and increased ecotourism.

Peña Negra will be developed into an important ecological, economic and recreational resource for the Piornal community and become an attractive destination for regional and international visitors. Landscape and ecological values will be protected and enhanced whilst encouraging the use of the reserve as a resource for wildlife-based ecotourism.

Natural Grazing

The project focuses on a natural grazing management approach that will restore vegetation in Peña Negra to its original state. Through their grazing, trampling and migration patterns, large natural grazers help to restore the indigenous plant diversity in natural areas. By creating more open spaces in dense vegetation, more succession stages and thus more variation in the landscape and new habitats will be created.

Endangered species will benefit from the presence of large herbivores. Grazing and browsing result in more gradients in the landscape with an increased variation in the vegetation, which is beneficial for a variety of flowering herbs, shrubs, insects, birds and other small animals.

The project will represent an example of best practice for cost-effective habitat restoration through proven approaches of natural grazing management and the promotion of vegetation dynamics.


Ecological goals

  • Establish more balanced natural herbivore species assemblages to restore indigenous plant diversity and ecological values of the reserve.
  • Rehabilitate and maintain favourable habitats for endangered species.
  • Support forest fire prevention and control by managing forest understory through natural grazing.
  • Establish and maintain control over invasive species.
  • Increase ecosystem resilience against Climate Change and diseases.


In Extremadura, rural areas become depopulated because young people migrate to cities for better job and income perspectives. Developing sustainable income streams for rural areas on the basis of local natural treasures is one of the major focus areas of True Nature Foundation.

In Peña Negra we restore ecosystems, while creating economic opportunities and employment through ecotourism and ecosystem services.

The iconic, free roaming Pottoka horses are the main attraction in the area, along with other iconic species such as reintroduced wild cattle, as part of our Aurochs backbreeding project, the spectacular landscape and its unique biodiversity.

Ecotourism gives added economic value to this natural reserve and the local communities. It generates income, which is important for the sustainability of the project, and promotes the sustainable use of natural resources.