Conserving Remaining Populations of the Iberian Lynx
Project location: PORTUGAL
Project start date: July 2003 - Project end date: February 2004
Project number: 2003-25
Beneficiary: Fauna & Flora International
Building of local partnerships for land management
The Iberian lynx is a species only found in Spain and Portugal and it is now considered to be the most endangered cat species in the world, with less than 200 individuals now considered to survive in the wild. The decline of the Iberian lynx is a result of changes in land usage, the dramatic decline in wild rabbit populations, illegal hunting and road accidents. There is an urgent need to identify important areas for lynx in Portugal and Spain, and to secure their long-term management, and remove the threats of inappropriate development or land use change to such areas. The Nando Peretti Foundation is funding this project that will first focus on a specific area in southern Portugal - the Serra Do Caldeirao in the Algarve. This area may hold critically important populations of lynx, and supports large areas of habitat that - if managed positively - could support expanding populations of lynx.
Surveys will be conducted by a team of local researchers. Sightings of lynx will be mapped to identify areas of lynx activity and to determine the quality of remaining habitats, and their degree of fragmentation.
Where evidence of current lynx populations is established, or where areas suitable for reintroduction are identified, a team of local (and where appropriate international) specialists will develop relationships and eventual partnerships with local landowners and managers.
Key to the long-term survival of the animal will be effective local involvement in its protection, and positive local land management regimes. In addition, interventions such as rabbit restocking, captive breeding of lynx, building public and political awareness, addressing inappropriate land development plans and developing biodiversity-friendly development alternatives, or innovative marketing for existing products, for local farmers will be required. The areas involved are inhabited by some of the poorest communities in Europe and the protection of the lynx could represent an opportunity to ensure long-term protection of these unique habitats and associated traditional lifestyles.