Conservation of Iberian lynx

Conservation of Iberian lynx

Project Animal(s) : Iberian lynx( Lynx pardinus)
Project Category : Mammals
Project Region : Across the World, Asia, Europe
Project Type : Conservation
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Project is timebound? : No

The Iberian lynx is included in Appendix I of CITES and in Appendix II of the Bern Convention and Annexes II and IV of the EU Habitats and Species Directive. It is fully protected in Spain and Portugal.

In the 1960s it was recognized that both abundance and distribution of the Iberian lynx had decreased dramatically since the early 20th century. A recovery program is now in place since 2002 trying to save the Iberian lynx from extinction. This program is focused on the two remaining breeding populations in Doñana and Andúkar-Cardeña in Sierra Morena. It aims to preserve 98% of the Iberian lynx’s gene pool over the next 100 years. Priorities for this program are to protect suitable habitat for new lynx populations and to create connectivity between the remaining populations. In this regard it aims to stabilize the populations by combating threats, to increase the number of lynx in wild populations and to increase the number of wild population. Conservation actions taken so far include restocking numbers of rabbits, habitat improvements, construction of artificial breeding dens for lynx, disease management, genetic management to avoid gene loss, translocation and reintroduction of lynx and establishment of road signs and fauna underpasses.

The program is so far successful, with habitat and rabbit populations widely restored and with an increasing Iberian lynx population. Regions with sufficient prey densities are very important for the Iberian lynx recovery. Additionally captive breeding programs were started in Spain and Portugal. Five breeding centers were constructed containing animals from both breeding populations. These breeding programs are critically important to fully recover the Iberian lynx as they provide a vital gene bank. Since 2009 several Iberian lynx could be reintroduced into the two surviving autochthonous populations in Sierra Morena and Doñana and since 2010 some lynx could be reintroduced in Guarrizas and Gudalmellato to help connect the two populations. Both autochthonous populations have increased in numbers and distribution area. Moreover, in 2014 the first lynx reintroductions in Portugal took place. These successes were only possible through careful planning and managing of the recovery program and the integration of various partners such as land owners, national authorities, hunters and environmental agencies. Public awareness and education programs have helped changing attitudes towards the lynx particularly among private landowners in lynx areas. Education and awareness activities go on and lynx areas are regularly monitored for illegal traps.

Further action is still needed to save the Iberian lynx such as continuous effort to stimulate rabbit recovery, enhance habitat quality, combat threats, such as road mortalities and possible diseases outbreaks, and the restocking and release of lynx in new areas to connect populations. There is a need to implement recovery plans in all regions where the lynx once occurred over the past decades and to continue to carefully monitor the Iberian lynx as well as the conservation measures that are in place.

Project Agency : Cat Specialist Group

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