The ICNF explained that “Kayakweru, introduced into the wild in February was found dead on Thursday, 12 March by a field team working in a forested area in the Mértola region.”
The Institute said on its website that the causes of death remain unknown, but a necropsy has been ordered to determine how the world’s most endangered species of feline died.
Kayakweru was born in captivity in the Algarve town of Silves and was released on 7 February along with Kempo, a Spanish male lynx from Doñana in Spain in the Guadiana Nature Park.
The species, which is native to the Iberian Peninsula, all but disappeared in the 1990s.But patient work in recent years has meant that today Portugal is in a position to reintroduce two lynxes into a large fenced-off area in the Natural Park, to allow them to adapt to their freedom.
Last summer, the National Pact for the Conservation of the Iberian Lynx was signed with some 20 land-owners, researchers and non-governmental organisations, aimed at ensuring that the cats can survive.
Some organisations, however, such as environmental campaign group Quercus, have argued that the conditions are not fully in place.
This follows news late last year that two thousand hectares of terrain had been secured for the first reintroduction of the critically-endangered Iberian Lynx into Portugal. The Portugal News later learned that more negotiations are taking place to secure more land.
In a statement sent to The Portugal News, the ICNF said more contracts are in the pipeline with a view to at least doubling the amount of land currently assigned for the recovery project.
“Other agreements of collaboration are also due to be signed to cover a total of at least five thousand hectares of potential land for the species to live on”, the institute explained.
The Iberian Lynx reintroduction programme, it explained, is similar to other animal conservation programmes the world over. It requires “a permanent monitoring of the animals released which includes marking them and following them with telemetry and photo-trapping”.
Efforts to bring the Iberian Lynx back from the brink of extinction are 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 Government and is financed by the Nature Conservation Fund to a tune of €180,000, with the aim of finding ways to stabilise the population 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.
The National Iberian Lynx Reproduction Centre (CNRLI) was inaugurated in 2009 in Silves, 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.
In related news, one of the five Lynx cubs born in Huelva last Wednesday, has died, Spanish conservation authorities confirmed this week.
According to reports from across the border, there were two separate litters, with the cub that died born to the female, Homer. Shortly after the cub’s death, the mother took the surviving cub to a secluded spot where she has remained.