By CHRIS GRAEME [email protected]
The Iberian lynx, which has been in danger of extinction in Portugal and Spain for nearly a century, is to benefit from an ambitious €34 million repopulation programme.
The programme represents the culmination of 10 years of research and work aimed at saving one of the world’s most endangered members of the cat family.
The plan aims to create new populations of the Lynx Pardinus, which was brought to the edge of extinction by 2003 when serious breeding programmes were set up in the south of Portugal and Spain.
Eight years later, there are 92 animals in captivity spread out over five centres – one of them in Silves in the Algarve.
In the last reproductive season, 26 lynx cubs were bred in captivity in the five centres. There are 200 lynx believed to be in the wild on the peninsula.
This month the conservation plan Iberlince has been approved by the European Commission which will begin on September 1 and continue until August 2016.
Together with the programme ‘Life+’, the €34 million project aims to increase the number of lynxes in the only two reproductive populations on the planet to 70 females in the Serra Morena and 75 in Doñana, both in Spain.
In addition, the project co-spearheaded by the Regional Council for Andalucía aims to establish four new populations with five females in each, in areas where lynxes were already known to exist.
“This project aims to increase the populations and historic-geographic distribution of the Iberian Lynx in the regions of Andalucía, Castela La-Mancha, Spanish and Portuguese Estremadura regions,” states the programme presentation document.
The goal is to identify areas which have enough natural resources to sustain the lynxes after their reintroduction to the wild.
Tito Rosa, the president of the Institute for Nature Conservation and Biodiversity (ICNB) believes that this project represents a “positive turning point”.
This project will enable efforts already made to be channelled to a single goal – the preparations to reintroduce the animals into the wild with backup support on the ground.
Portugal, via the ICNB, will be involved in specific projects worth €3.6 million including money from Portugal itself totalling €1.4 million.