For them, Sardinia is like a sprawling park, a happy island of natural oases and protected reserves, in endless landscapes where there is no sign announcing them as such. The island's few inhabitants leave plenty of room for the tenacity of nature, full of a lively spirit, and an ideal habitat for many wild creatures. Animals that without the confines of the sea would have wandered far from their land, losing their special traits and perhaps the freedom to live as they know best. Horses, donkeys, mouflon, deer, eagles and griffon vultures have always been here, while others come here for the winter and are struck by 'mal di Sardegna' (the feeling of nostalgia of those who have visited Sardinia and want to go back) and never leave. Like the flamingos that nest in the wetlands behind the beaches, colouring the island's lagoon landscapes with pink.
Almond-shaped eyes and a rebellious forelock, long mane and a low, thick tail, small as ponies but not to be ridden. These are the wild horses that are descended from those that roamed the island as early as the Nuragic age. They now live on the Giara plateau, a magical world of its own, consisting of natural environments in harmony with each other: the forest with Mediterranean maquis and garrigue, the prairie with natural freshwater ponds where the little horses stop to drink and rest. Here you can meet their proud gaze before their favourite game starts again, galloping free and happy.
Griffons are mythological creatures that are half lion and half eagle, and Sardinia is home to the only surviving natural colony in Italy. In the last century they risked extinction even on the island, but today there are many of them and they are on great form. Many chicks are hatched in the nests and become majestic ancestral-looking birds of prey. Elsewhere in the world, griffon vultures settle in the high cliffs out of view of humans, whereas they can be spotted and photographed along the spectacular 40 kilometres of coastline between Bosa and Alghero, renamed the Costa dei Grifoni (‘Griffon Vulture Coast’) in their honour.
Today it inhabits the limestone ridges between Supramonte and the sea, but has been trampling and grazing the island's landscapes since the time of the nuraghi, and has been immune to any genetic contamination. The mouflon is the proud and tenacious ancestor of the sheep that graze in their millions in Sardinia. In winter, the males use their horns to fight each other for the females. Then you see them disappear into the bush, each with their new harem in tow. In spring, the young are born, and they frolic near their mothers, watched by the patriarch mouflon until it decides it is time to leave. It has been doing this for four thousand years.
There’s donkeys and then there’s donkeys There is the grey donkey with a dark cross on its back, which, although wild, is easy to encounter throughout Sardinia. And then there is the albino donkey of Asinara. His languid eyes, iridescent pink and blue, seem to bear the memory of the torments endured on his island, the forced isolation of the sick in the lazaretto, the pain of prisoners of war, the moans of maximum security inmates, the pains of statesmen. But if you pause to look at them, you will also hear the hopeful songs of the prisoners and the newfound peace, the delicacy of nature and the enchantment of the surrounding sea, a sanctuary for cetaceans.
Beautiful and friendly, so popular as to be the envy of wild animals. The Siniscola herd of cows does not disappoint its fans. Every year, with the arrival of the summer, they leave their farm in the countryside and go to the sea, faithful to their usual destination, the Berchìda beach. Strolling here and there, they arrive at the beach, lie down and doze, look around and wink at the bathers. They’re finally on holiday, enjoying a day by the sea. Before setting off on their way back they drink at the river and seem to wave goodbye with their tails. See you tomorrow!