She did not last even a month in the wild. Reinforcing fears that Portugal may be “jumping the gun” when it comes to releasing Iberian Lynx from their breeding-programme captivity in Silves, Kayakweru was found dead in a “forest area near Mértola” yesterday (Thursday).
According to Observador website, she had been monitored only hours before by ICNF workers running the programme – and been confirmed in good health.
A statement from the environment ministry says cause of death is as yet unknown. Kayakweru’s body will now to be examined by INIAV, the national veterinary institute to discover what went wrong.
But the fact that the young feline is dead highlights conservationists’ concerns over the safety of the government-backed programme.
Back in July last year, Quercus reacted to the news that eight felines were soon to be released into the wild, saying: “Considering the proximity of next year’s elections, the fear is that there may have been an attempt to politically manipulate this whole process”.
“We really don’t know how compatible the species will be with agricultural/ forestry activities, as information has been excessively simplified”, a statement from the NGO continued.
Quercus also claimed there was “a distinct lack of information” over whether released lynx would find enough healthy rabbits to live on (rabbit being their staple diet).
Landowners confirmed this fear, citing the cyclical scourge that affects the country’s rabbits as being “poorly gauged”.
President of the national association of hunting landowners António Soares said at the time, that if rabbits “do not resist a new outbreak of viral haemorrhagic disease”, the lynx’s return to the wild will be “severely compromised”.
Zookeeper Paulo Figueiras told the Resident that another obstacle that appears to have been glossed over is the likelihood of farmers and herders killing lynx if the big cats start foraging for food “too close for comfort”.
“It is what happened in the past”, he told us. “People who have chickens and farm animals will put down traps – it’s human nature”.
The Iberian Lynx remains the most threatened feline in the world – with the risk of being run over almost just as great as the risk of dying due to lack of available food.
With Kayakweru’s death, her “partner” Kempo – raised in Spain’s Doñana national park – is now without his selected mate.