Spain has often been criticised for its uncaring attitutude to animals, but incidences of cruelty and neglect are not confined to these shores: sadly, they exist throughout the world, often in circuses, animal shows and private collections where wild creatures are treated as nothing more than money making opportunities.
One man's love for such abandoned and mistreated animals has been a source of inspiration and hope throughout the Costa Blanca region of Spain. He is aptly named Serafín, and it was his dedication and determination which created El Arca Animal Sanctuary, which can be found 300 metres along the main road exiting Guadalest.
The Sanctuary, which is also known as Noah's Ark, offers a home to a wide range of animals from various countries, the only criteria being that Serafín and his small band of helpers have enough space and money available to properly care for them. El Arca is situated on the hillside of this beautiful part of Spain, and nearly all the enclosures are formed on earth and natural habitat rather than concrete. Although there are wire cages and barriers they are kept to a minimum, and there as a necessary precaution for both animals and visitors. The Sanctuary has a very natural, relaxed feel, and it is immediately obvious this is not a money making concern but a much needed refuge for a variety of creatures ranging from snakes and small mammals to lions, tigers and bears. Most of the animals can be seen at surprisingly close range, and the staff have painstakingly prepared information boards to explain the animals' histories, which make both interesting and poignant reading.
Until recently it was not widely known that this Sanctuary even existed, as all available money is used for animal care and there is little left over for advertising or marketing. However, last year a visit by Spain's Queen Sofia raised its profile considerably. This was an important landmark for the Sanctuary, who rely on a nominal entrance fee of 5 Euros, donations and the generosity of visitors to continue its extremely valuable work.
THE CENTER HAS BEEN CLOSED TO THE PUBLIC, DUE TO A NEW EUROPEAN LAW SINCE MAY 2008.
It is now the site of the Vivood Hotel