Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Iberian Lynx Return to Portugal

The first Iberian Lynx has been transferred to the new captive breeding programme at Silves in the Algarve region of southern Portugal. Moreover, a further 15 more lynx are planned to be transferred to Silves from breeding centres in Spain during November. The Silves centre is the first Iberian Lynx breeding centre to be opened outside of Andalucia in southern Spain, and this first lynx represents the first confirmed presence of the species in the country for a number of years, albeit in captivity. SOS Lynx thus welcomes this development and looks forward to more future progress in captive breeding in the future.

Individual Iberian Lynx may still survive in the wild in Portugal, either as remnants of past populations, or crossing over from known wild populations in southern Spain. However, the long term recovery of the species in Portugal will likely require captive breeding and reintroductions, along with habitat conservation, reductions in predator persecution and the recovery of wild rabbit populations.

Lynx bred and raised in captivity in Portugal will form part of the unified management of the Iberian Lynx captive breeding programme, across the Iberian Peninsula. Lynx in Silves could thus be reintroduced in either Spain or Portugal, depending upon progress made with preparing adequate reintroduction areas in each country. This, in turn, will require identifying and preparing areas with adequate prey and habitat, and a supportive local human population.

For more info, please see the website of ICNB (in Portuguese).

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Inauguration of Lynx Breeding Centre in Portugal

A new captive breeding centre for Iberian Lynx was officially opened on Friday 22 May at Silves in southern Portugal, the first such centre to be completed outside of Andalucia, Spain.

The new centre will form part of a network of lynx breeding centres, including three existing centres in Andalucia (at El Acebuche in Doñana, Zoo Jerez and La Olivilla in Jaen Province), and further planned Spanish centres in Andalucia, Castilla-La Mancha and Extremadura. The work of these centres is being coordinated by a multi-lateral commission involving various Spanish regional governments, as well as the environment ministries of both Spain and Portugal.

The new centre at Silves is being funded by Águas do Algarve as part of a series of compensation measures stipulated by the European Union for the construction of the controversial Odelouca dam. Other measures will include habitat and rabbit recovery projects in southern Portugal.

To date, the Iberian Lynx captive breeding programme has been very successful, with the current captive population exceeding 60 individuals, and thus ready for supplying animals for reintroduction into the wild (initially in Andalucia), as well as for founding new breeding centres.

The new centre at Silves will hopefully soon receive its first lynx, and has capacity for up to 32 individuals in 14 large cages constantly monitored by video cameras and dedicated staff.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Environmental Volunteers Required

Ecologistas en Acción - Andalucía, as part of the current lynx LIFE project, are organising a volunteer camp to take place in the Sierra Morena mountains in northern Andalucía between 20 and 31 August 2009.

The organisation is seeking 15 environmental volunteers to participate in a number of activities including habitat management and awareness campaigns in and around the Sierra de Andújar Natural Park, aimed at conserving the Iberian Lynx and the Mediterranean Forest.

Participants can come from any country and do not need prior experience as an environmental volunteer. However, interest in the natural environment is important, as are good social skills and at least a basic level of Spanish.

Volunteers will be provided with shared accommodation, materials and transport within the project area. However, participants will be responsible for their own transport to and from northern Andalucía.

More information, and an application form (in Spanish), is available from the Andalucian Regional Government

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Pregnant Iberian Lynx Runover in Doñana

Theo, a seven year old female lynx, pregnant with two cubs, was killed by a motor vehicle on 13 March on a road between Algodonera and Laguna de San Lázaro, within the Doñana protected area. This incident follows a number of similar lynx deaths in the area in recent years, including just six months ago when a lynx was runover on the busy Almonte - Matalascañas road alongside the National Park. Moreover, Theo was killed on an agricultural road that had been recently re-surfaced and upgraded to allow traffic to drive much more quickly.

The Iberian Lynx population in Doñana is one of only two confirmed breeding populations, and is precariously small, with less than 50 individuals. Moreover, the population is threatened by road traffic as well as: habitat loss to intensive agriculture; low rabbit densities; a 2007 outbreak of Feline Leukemia Virus, and; illegal hunting practices. Indeed, an autopsy conducted on Theo's body showed that she had been shot and injured prior to being killed by a vehicle - highlighting the multiple threats that face the Iberian Lynx in Doñana.

Conservation projects by a number of administrations and NGOs have focused on both Doñana and the Sierra Morena, benefiting both of the Iberian Lynx populations. These projects have included rabbit recovery work, traffic calming, habitat recovery and hunting surveillance. However, a lot more work is needed, particularly in Doñana where the lynx population continues to be threatened by inappropriate development and conflicting attitudes. Lynx continue to be trapped and shot in Doñana despite the species being legally protected for 30 years. Similarly, intensive agricultural and road developments have occurred right up to, and even within, the Doñana National Park, even though it is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Eagle Shooting Endangers Species

Portuguese environmental groups, including SOS Lynx, denounce the deliberate shooting of the only nesting male Iberian Imperial Eagle in the country.

The Iberian Imperial Eagle is one of the rarest birds of prey in the world, with only 400 individuals surviving. The species was once widespread across the Iberian Peninsula, but is now confined to small parts of central and southern Spain, and areas close to the Spanish border in Portugal.

The deliberate shooting of this particular eagle is not only completely illegal under Portuguese and International law, but also represents a disaster for the species' recovery in Portugal, as well as the recovery of many other important predators, including the planned reintroduction of Iberian Lynx.

The shooting occurred next to the eagle's nest, within a supposedly protected area, by an individual or individuals who presumably have absolutely no respect for the law or nature conservation.

Dan Ward, spokesperson for SOS Lynx stated: “Irrational attitudes constitute one of the main barriers to predator conservation in Spain and Portugal, and if predator persecution cannot be adequately controlled, the future recovery of many important predator species will be in doubt”.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Rabbits "Near Threatened" With Extinction

The European Rabbit has been officially reclassified as “Near Threatened” with extinction, in its native range, by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). Many people remain unaware that the European Rabbit is native to just Spain, Portugal and small parts of North Africa, from where it was introduced elsewhere by humans (e.g. into the UK and Australia). Similarly, many do not know that rabbits have declined massively in the Iberian Peninsula in recent decades, and that this has had a huge impact on wider nature conservation given that rabbits are a vital prey species for many other animals.

European Rabbits were once abundant across the Iberian Peninsula, even probably being the origin of the name of Spain, Hispana, “the land of the rabbits”, in Phonenician. However, due to a combination of excessive hunting and eradication programmes, habitat loss and the arrival of myxomatosis in the 1950s and Rabbit Hemorrhagic Virus in 1989, rabbit populations have declined dramatically and remain very low in most areas, e.g. just 5% of pre-1950s levels. This in turn has led to the decline in many emblematic predator species, including the Iberian Lynx.

One major obstacle to reversing this decline is that rabbits and rabbit conservation in Spain and Portugal have not had the profile that they deserve, particularly at the international level where much more attention has been paid to controlling and eradicating rabbits in areas where they have been introduced and they cause considerable ecological and agricultural damage.

However, fortunately, this situation has now changed. In Portugal in 2006, national authorities reclassified the rabbit as “Near Threatened”, and in Spain in 2007 authorities gave the rabbit an even higher conservation status of “Vulnerable”. Now the IUCN has re-classified rabbits as “Near Threatened” across their entire native range of Spain, Portugal and parts of North Africa.

Andrew Smith, Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission Lagomorph Specialist Group stated “It is important to recognize the European Rabbit in its native range, as distinct from the areas in which it has been introduced. Introduced populations are often considered pests – but this rabbit in the Iberian Peninsula is a keystone species that must be considered in all aspects of managing the natural ecosystem; without the rabbit, this ecosystem is likely to collapse.”

It is hoped that these reclassifications can help pressure governments and conservation organisations to do more to conserve the species, and also help change the view of rabbits from being predominantly a pest to also being a vitally important component of native ecosystems.

For more info about rabbit conservation in Spain and Portugal please read the report Reversing Rabbit Decline

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Welcome to Lynx News

This is a new blog dedicated to the conservation of the Iberian Lynx, the most endangered feline species in the world.

The Iberian Lynx is native to just Spain and Portugal and is classified by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) as critically endangered with extinction - the only feline species to be so.

The species has declined massively in recent decades due to a combination of habitat loss and fragmentation, deliberate and accidental persecution, drastic declines in its principal prey (wild rabbits) and road kills.

Currently, only two small wild breeding populations can be confirmed, both in Andalucia, southern Spain, numbering together less than 200 individuals.

This blog will contain up-to-date news, campaigns and other information about the Iberian Lynx, and aims to raise the profile and awareness of this beautiful and important creature.

Any questions or comments about the Iberian Lynx or related issues should be emailed to: news@soslynx.org