Number of Iberian lynx in Spain rises to a record high

by Lorraine Williamson
Iberian lynx

The population of the Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) in Spain has risen to a record high of 1,365 counted individuals, the highest number since recorded. 

It represents a growth of 23% compared to the last count of 2020. Then 1,111 copies were registered. This is apparent from the annual report of the lynx working group, which is coordinated by the Spanish Ministry of Ecological Transition and Demographic Problems (MITECO). The number of 1,365 includes all adults and young adults and the cubs born in 2021. 

Iberian lynx still in danger of extinction 

Although the most critical moment for the population seems to have passed, the Iberian lynx has still considered an “endangered” species according to the Spanish Red List of Threatened Species. Twenty years ago, the number of copies counted was still below 100. 

Of the 13 recorded populations in the Iberian Peninsula, 12 are in Spain, with a total of 1,156 individuals. Of those 12 Spanish populations, five are in Andalucia, three in Castile-La Mancha and four in Extremadura. The biggest growth of 43% in one year has been in Castile-La Mancha. 

All key figures used show a “net positive” trend since active programs to protect the lynx were started in 2002. Below, for example, are the total number of lynx, the number of fertile females and the number of cubs born. In 2021, 500 cubs will be born from 277 fertile females. Overall productivity – the average number of cubs born per fertile female – was 1.8 in Spain and 2.3 in Portugal. 

Rising 

The developments mentioned above show that the lynx population is again on the rise. However, according to the ministry, the figures also show that it is necessary to remain vigilant. The protection programs should be continued. In addition, measures must be taken to strengthen the lynx population in both countries. According to the ministry, the species is “still in danger of extinction according to the criteria of the Red List of Threatened Species.” 

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Over the past twenty years, the participating parties in the lynx working group have made “constant efforts to conserve this species, which has been essential to achieving this result,” according to the ministry. These are MITECO in Spain and the Portuguese Institute of Nature and Forest Protection and the regional governments of Andalucia, Castile-La Mancha and Extremadura. 

The ministry also points to the “at least as important” contribution from non-governmental organisations such as the World Wildlife Fund and CBD Habitat. In addition, “European funding of various projects has contributed to the success to a significant extent.” 

WWF: Lynx population growth “very positive” 

WWF also considers the growth of the lynx population by more than 20% as “very positive”. The organization also points out that this is the third consecutive year that the population has increased, but emphasises that the species is still endangered. 

Ramón Perez de Ayala is responsible for projects within the Endangered Species Program within WWF in Spain. According to him, the Iberian lynx “despite this good result is still an endangered species. The number of lynxes will have to increase threefold by 2040. To achieve that, we still need to work hard to eliminate the main threats: traffic collisions and illegal hunting. It’s hard to believe, but lynx still die because people shoot at them, use poison illegally or set a trap. Moreover, that causes an irreparable loss of lynx every year. Furthermore, it is also prohibited under the Spanish Penal Code.” 

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