By INÊS LOPES [email protected]
Two female Iberian lynx at the Silves reproduction centre for the endangered species gave birth to a total of seven cubs this month, giving the teams involved in the breeding programmes reason to celebrate.
According to the Nature Conservation Institute (ICN), responsible for the Centro Nacional de Reprodução do Lince Ibérico (National Iberian Lynx Reproduction Centre), six-year-old Castañuela gave birth to a litter of four on March 6, a rare occurrence when considering females usually have litters of two to three cubs at a time.
A “dedicated mother”, Castañuela has been attentive to its litter and is being monitored via CCTV system 24 hours a day. The animal arrived in Silves from Spain in November 2011.
A day earlier, first-time mother Biznaga, which arrived at the centre from Spain in November 2010, gave birth to three cubs but abandoned two of them, which are now in incubators and are being artificially fed by specialists at the centre to ensure better chances of survival. They currently weigh around 400 grams each.
Although the female displayed normal parental behaviour with the other cub, it died 48 hours after birth.
The 2012 breeding season started at the centre in December, when females were in heat. Pairing is planned according to genetic criteria and respecting behavioural interactions among the animals.
Inaugurated in 2009 as a compensatory measure for the construction of Odelouca Dam, the Silves Iberian lynx centre, the first of its kind in the country, includes a quarantine area, a rehabilitation centre, a veterinary surgery and laboratory.
A sophisticated CCTV system has been installed at the centre, which includes 80 cameras and an office to coordinate the cameras and footage.
This system allows scientists and researchers to observe the species with minimum human contact, allowing the animals to one day be released into the wild while still retaining a natural fear of people. It is for this reason that the centre is not open to the public.
To know more about the work carried out at the National Iberian Lynx Reproduction Centre in Silves or see photographs and videos of the animals, please visit
http://linceiberico.icnb.pt (in Portuguese)