In a statement sent to Lusa, the Institute for the Conservation of Nature and Forests (ICNF) explains that its team of monitors "detected the dead animal, in an advanced state of decomposition, through the radio VHF signal of the transmitting collar".

The causes of the death of Opala "are still unknown", but are being investigated by the local police, the National Republican Guard (GNR), which has carried out a survey of the evidence and sample collected, the ICNF says.

The young female Opala was born in 2017 in the breeding center of La Olivilla, in Spain’s Andalusia region, and was released on 15 March 2018, in the Corte Gafo area in the municipality of Mértola, in Beja district, in the Iberian lynx population centre in the PNVG.

According to the ICNF, Opala was detected for the last time in September 2018, apparently marking out a territory in the area where she has now been found dead.

Opala is the second lynx released in the PNVG and found dead so far this year, following the death of the male Mistral on 2 January, on the N122 highway, apparently run over.

With this new death, the survival rate of Iberian lynx specimens reintroduced in Portugal "is at 72%", the ICNF said. Currently the PNVG harbours 11 breeding territorial females and 45 cubs born in the wild.

The population is monitored by telemetry and also by camera traps, which allows the individual identification of all specimens.

The reintroduction of Iberian lynx in Portugal began in 2015 under the project LIFE Iberlince, whose goal is to recover the historical distribution of the species.

"It is hoped to achieve a harmonious coexistence between sustainable human activities and the viability of this wild feline, in the long term,” the ICNF said, described the Iberian lynx as “one of the most threatened in the world".