The project by REN, which promotes the defence of Portuguese National Transmission Network [RNT] infrastructure and the forest against wildfires in Cabreira Mountain through the assistance of Garrano breed horses (263 mares and 28 stallions), has once again been highlighted in the international press, this time in the British newspaper The Guardian. The article highlights REN's contribution to the protection of this native breed, "one of the region’s most emblematic and endangered species".
The Guardian reported on the "search for a new job" for the Garranos, which assist in preventing wildfires through an initiative that brought together REN, the municipality of Vieira do Minho, the Associação de Criadores de Equinos da Raça Garrana – ACERG (the Association of Garrano Horse Breeders), and the Associação Para o Ordenamento da Serra da Cabreira – APOSC (the Association of the Cabreira Mountain Territorial Planning). The decline of the Garranos "after 16,000 years of domestication" began in the mid-20th century, "as farms were mechanised and tractors and cars replaced horses", noted the British newspaper. With the implementation of the protocol, local communities have an additional incentive to value this species, of which there are fewer than two thousand specimens, according to data from ACERG.
As part of the initiative, REN took responsibility for the creation of improved pastures, the installation of drinking troughs for the horses, and the placement of GPS devices on dominant mares and stallions. The goal is to keep the animals from having to travel to more hazardous areas to find food while clearing vegetation (approximately seven tonnes daily), significantly reducing the risk of wildfires.
The initiative is supported by APOSC, which, through its teams of forest fire fighters, supplements any work not done by the Garrano horses in the corridors of REN’s power transmission lines. It is a crucial effort in Portugal, a country "that knows all too well the damage wildfires can do", as noted by The Guardian.
REN’s project aimed at the defence of the forest and at the protection of the Garrano horses had already been highlighted in the international press, with an article in the France Press. The French agency reported the use of "fire-fighting horses" to prevent fires. In September, an article in the French daily newspaper Le Figaro also told the story of the project, adding that, since 2010, REN had been assisting landowners in the region in planting native trees as a preventive measure against fires.
In October, the project was awarded by the Portuguese Corporate Ethics Association, recognising its innovative character. It was distinguished in the Social Responsibility category, under "Environment: Impact Reduction".