Saving the Iberian Lynx

Portugal Makes History - Iberian Lynx

Last month, a pair of Iberian lynxes were reintroduced into the wild in Portugal. The reintroduction took place in the Guadiana Valley Natural Park, which is located in the southeastern part of the country. This is the first time the small wild cat has been released in Portugal. Several previous releases and reintroductions took place in Spain.

One of the cats came from Portugal’s Silves Conservation Center and the other from central Spain. Each cat was marked before it was released. After reintroduction, the cats are permanently monitored.

The Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) is native to the Iberian Peninsula, a 225,000 square mile area of the land that includes Spain, Portugal and Andorra, along with sub-territories of France and Britain.

Like other lynxes, the Iberian lynx has a short tail, long legs, tufted ears and fur projecting around the neck area that looks like a beard.

The cat’s preferred habitat is scrub (woody plants and small trees) and its primary prey (90%) is rabbit.

The Iberian lynx is listed as Critically Endangered by several organizations, including the IUCN.  At one point, there were less than 100 Iberian lynxes in the wild and only two breeding populations. The population decline has been caused by loss of habitat, loss of prey and disease.

Iberian lynxAccording to a recent story in The Portugal News, a National Pact for the Conservation of the Iberian Lynx was signed in 2014 with 20 land-owners, researchers and non-governmental organizations.

Two thousand hectares (approximately 5000 acres) of land were secured for the first reintroduction into Portugal, and “more negotiations are taking place to at least double the amount of land.”

In 2013, a study published in the Nature Climate Change journal concluded that even with successful reintroduction programs, the Iberian lynx may become extinct by 2050 due to climate change.

Do you think the Iberian lynx can be saved from extinction? For more information, visit SOS Lynx.

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Two Iberian Lynx Cubs Released into the Wild

Iberian lynx cub

On June 21, 2013, two Iberian lynx cubs born at the Silves reproduction centre in southern Portugal were released in the Guarrizas valley (Spain) after being taught to hunt and survive in the wilderness. To date, 19 cubs (11 from Silves) have been reintroduced to their natural habitat.

The Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus), also called the Pardel lynx and Spanish lynx, is a small wild cat, and listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. According to the IUCN, several years ago there were less than 150 adult Iberian lynx in existence, spread between two breeding populations in southwestern Spain. Today, there is currently a population of approximately 300 Iberian lynx living in the wild. There are also reports of a small population of cats in Portugal.

iberian lynx

Iberian Lynx – Photo Credit

Factors contributing to the Iberian lynx decline include the loss of prey (rabbits) due to disease and over-hunting, habitat destruction, poaching, poisoning, feral dogs and getting hit by vehicles.

A national action plan for the conservation of the Iberian lynx was created in 2007 with several goals, including preserving habitat for both the lynx and its prey, reducing non-natural reasons for mortality, creating a captive breeding center and raising awareness about the cat’s conservation status. Various organizations are now working to prevent the cat’s extinction.

Like other species of lynx, the Iberian lynx has a short tail, fur under the chin and strands of hair on the ears. It is smaller than its lynx relatives, and has a more noticeable, darker looking coat with spots. At one point in time, the Iberian lynx roamed throughout the entire Iberian Peninsula, an area of land that currently includes parts of France, Spain, Portugal, Andorra and Gibraltar. Although rabbits are the cats main prey, the Iberian lynx will has also been known to hunt ducks, deer, rodents, reptiles and amphibians.

You can read the entire article about the cubs here.

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