The critically-endangered Iberian Lynx, a small-prey hunter native to the Iberian Peninsula, could soon see its population in Portugal resurrected after a deal was signed last week to secure two thousand hectares of land on which the elusive animals will be reintroduced.
On Thursday last week Portugal’s Secretary of State for Spatial Planning and Nature Conservation, Miguel de Castro Neto, presided over a ceremony in which contracts were signed between the Institute for Forest and Nature Conservation (ICNF) and the owners of the land on which the lynxes will be released.
The signing secured two thousand hectares of scrubland – the Lynx’s natural habitat – for the animals’ release in Portugal.
State Secretary Castro Neto said the deal was a “decisive step in the [breeding and conservation] project, initiating geographical definition, with close collaboration between the owners and managers of the place where the Iberian Lynx will be reintroduced.”
For their part the proprietors have shown willing in promoting the species on their land, which corresponds to the lynxes’ natural habitat, and, according to the ICNF, they can also expect to see their properties increase in economic value through their association with the project and with the specific type of tourism it is expected to draw, as has happened in neighbouring Spain.
Efforts to bring the Iberian Lynx back from the brink of extinction are also based on a National Conservation Pact undersigned by the municipalities of Penamacor, Moura, Beja and Silves, by hunting associations and other private and public entities.
An associated project, SOS Wild Rabbit, has also been approved by the State Secretary Miguel de Castro Neto.
Financed by the Nature Conservation Fund to a tune of €180,000, the project aims to find ways to stabilise the populations of what is the lynx’s main prey.
Among the main reasons behind the Iberian Lynx’s decline is a sharp drop in the population of its main food source (wild rabbit) as a result of disease, the loss of scrubland, its main habitat, to human development, including changes in land use and the construction of roads and dams.
A National Iberian Lynx Reproduction Centre (CNRLI) was inaugurated in 2009 in Silves in the Algarve, a project developed by the regional water board Águas do Algarve with the support of the Committee for Iberian Lynx Breeding in Captivity (CCCLI).
According to information from the relevant entities, in Portugal the situation of the lynx is only recoverable with a reintroduction programme and the Conservation Programme was developed with the collaboration of national and international entities.
The Silves conservation centre is therefore seen as a “fundamental contributor” towards achieving the goals of various national and Luso-Spanish programmes, which has seen investment in the region of €3.6 million.