Iberian Lynx no longer threatened with extinction

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Iberian Lynx

“Great news! The IUCN recognises that the Iberian lynx is no longer threatened with extinction and is now classified as a vulnerable species,” enthusiastically announced the president of the Junta de Andalucía, Juanma Moreno, on social media last Thursday.

His region, Andalucia, is home to nearly 44% of the current population, which now exceeds 2,000 individuals. Two decades ago, there were only 94 in all of Spain, according to a report by the Artemisan Foundation.

Moreno emphasises that this success is due to the Life Lynxconnect project, a transnational initiative for the restoration of the historical distribution of the Iberian lynx, co-financed by the European Commission. The project coordinator, Francisco José Salcedo, has repeatedly explained that the greatest threats to this species are “inbreeding and isolation from other lynxes.” Nevertheless, it has been possible to double the Iberian lynx population in three years, and there are now 450 female individuals that reproduce. This was a crucial factor in the species no longer being threatened with extinction.

Successful recovery actions

In the 1990s, the Iberian lynx was declared the most endangered species in the world. According to Fundación Artemisan, there were then fewer than 100 individuals distributed over two nuclei in Andalucia. Furthermore, in 2023, their number was counted at 2,021. This was spread over 14 population centres (13 in Spain and one in Portugal).

The largest increase in lynxes on the Iberian Peninsula occurred between 2019 and 2023. In those four years, the population nearly tripled from 855 to 2,021 individuals, with a large number of female specimens. Between 80% and 90% of these female lynxes live on farms and hunting grounds, where they have proved to be valuable allies by displacing smaller predators such as the fox, the stone marten, and the weasel, whose overpopulation is harmful.

Successful conservation with LIFE LYNXCONNECT

The LIFE LYNXCONNECT program, started in 2020 and running until 2025, is a transnational initiative aimed at creating a genetically and demographically functional metapopulation of the Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus). This project aims to make the population of the Iberian lynx sustainable and genetically viable in the long term.

By connecting all existing population centres, authorities can ensure genetic exchange between these populations. Various actions help in this, such as connecting the six existing nuclei and creating two new ones, managing the species genetically, reducing the risk of extinction, and improving the population status. Additionally, the project focuses on combating threats to the species and implementing habitat improvement measures.

Collaborative effort

The project is carried out in collaboration with environmental managers and road authorities from Spain and Portugal. Four autonomous communities are also participating. In addition to Andalucia, these are Castilla-La Mancha, Extremadura, and Murcia. Furthermore, non-governmental organisations, representatives of the hunting sector, private companies, and scientific support from the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas – Estación Biológica de Doñana are involved.

The project also promotes public participation and territorial conservation and improves cooperation between managers and other stakeholders in nature conservation and economic development.

Where do the lynxes live in Spain?

In Spain, most lynxes live freely in the previously mentioned autonomous communities. According to the latest data from 2023:

  • Andalucia has the largest population with 755 individuals, representing 37.4% of the total Iberian lynx population in Spain. These lynxes live in the Doñana National Park, the Sierra Morena, and the Sierra Subbética.
  • Castilla-La Mancha follows with 715 lynxes, which is 35.4% of the total population. Lynxes live in the Montes de Toledo and the Sierra Morena, on the border of Andalucia and Castilla-La Mancha.
  • Extremadura has 253 lynxes, accounting for 12.5% of the total population in Spain. These primarily live after reintroduction in the protected areas of Valle de Matachel and Río Ortiga.

Distribution and threats

In addition to Andalucia, the lynx currently lives in Extremadura, Castilla-La Mancha, and southern Portugal. Furthermore, it has recently been reintroduced in Murcia. During this period, the lynx has also been affected by human factors, ranging from road accidents to poaching, and from small traps to snares intended for other animals, despite the ban on these.

Recently, WWF Spain and the Asociación de Naturalistas del Sureste (ANSE) have called on the region of Murcia to take urgent measures to ensure the success of the reintroduction of the Iberian lynx in the highlands of Lorca, after it was revealed that a lynx had been shot dead.

Related Article: Remarkable in Spain: Lynx Walks Through Village Centre

ASSSA

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