The couple to be released are the male Quinde and female Quisquilla, who were born in captivity in 2019, at the Iberian Lynx Breeding Centre in El Acebuche, in the Doñana National Park, Andalusia, Spain, a source of the Conservation Institute of Nature and Forests (ICNF) told Lusa news agency.
The two lynxes were released with emitter collars at 10am in the Corte Gafo area, Mértola municipality, Beja district, in the area of reintroduction of the species in Portugal - the Guadiana Valley - and while living in the wild they will be monitored by a ICNF team.
The release is the second of this year in Portugal after three lynxes were released on 18 February, the source said, stating that the ICNF expects to release a total of seven animals this year (three females and four males).
According to the source, the ICNF estimates that the population of Iberian lynx living free in the wild in Portugal is made up of 107 animals identified and monitored, a number that now rises to 109 with the release of Quinde and Quisquilla.
The estimate results from 43 releases, 91 births and 15 deaths in the natural environment, excluding 13 animals that have disappeared to date in Portugal, one animal that moved to Spain and two others that moved from Spain to Portugal.
The current population consists mostly of young lynx between the ages of one and three and is centred in Mértola and Serpa, but there are small centres or dispersing specimens in Castro Verde and Almodôvar, in Alentejo, and Alcoutim, in the Algarve.
As part of the “LIFE + Iberlince” project, ICNF started releasing specimens of Iberian lynx in the wild in December 2014 and monitors those living in the wild in Portugal.
The release began when there was only one specimen of the species in Portugal, the male Hongo, in a situation of isolation in the area of Vila Nova de Milfontes, municipality of Odemira, district of Beja.
Hongo, who had been born in 2011 and was last located in 2012 in Spain, relocated to Portugal, where he was detected in a hunting area in Vila Nova de Milfontes, in 2013, and found dead, the victim of being run over in 2015, on Highway 23, near Vila Nova da Barquinha, Santarém district.
The first proven births of the species in the wild in Portugal since the 1980s were in March 2016 and the first reproduction of lynxes already born in the wild in the Guadiana Valley occurred in May 2018.
Since March 2016, the ICNF has counted 91 births of Iberian lynx in the wild in Portugal, with the majority (75) being born in the last two years (29 in 2018 and 46 in 2019), which “attests to the success” of the reintroduction process of the species in Portugal.
According to the ICNF, 2019 was a “particularly favourable” year for the Iberian lynx in Portugal, due to the birth of 46 wild cubs and the establishment of territories occupied by 13 breeding females.
“With these territories already stabilised, the Guadiana Valley, with a rapidly growing population nucleus, has become one of the most successful reintroduction areas in Iberia”, says the ICNF.