The Lynx Program's main objective is to ensure the long-term conservation and management of areas with suitable Mediterranean habitat for the Iberian Lynx (Lynx pardinus) in Portugal.
The League for the Protection of Nature, in partnership with the international organization Fauna & Flora International (FFI), launched in 2004 the Lynx Program, which relies on the participation and technical and scientific support of a group composed of the main specialists in this species in Portugal.
Iberian lynx; Photos by Carlos Nunes
The Iberian lynx is considered on of the most endangered cat in the world. Until 2015, due to its reduced and fragmented distribution, it was on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List as a Critically Endangered species. Today, the situation is somewhat more favorable and, despite maintaining the highest threat status in Portugal, the Iberian lynx is on the road to recovery, and is globally classified as Endangered.
During the twentieth century the distribution of this species suffered a sharp decline that resulted in the reduction and disappearance of some of its populations, which became increasingly dispersed and distant. This decline was mainly due to two factors: the decline of its main prey, the rabbit, as a result of viral diseases (myxomatosis, haemorrhagic fever), abandonment of traditional agricultural practices and some inappropriate hunting practices; and the loss and deterioration of its habitat, the Mediterranean scrublands and woods, particularly due to their replacement by plantations of exotic and/or fast-growing forest species (e.g. eucalyptus, maritime pine), the construction of large infrastructures (e.g. dams, roads) and recurring forest fires. Other factors such as non-natural death (e.g. being run over by cars, poaching), diseases (e.g. bovine tuberculosis) and disturbance in breeding areas represent serious challenges to the current survival of the species.
The Iberian lynx is an emblematic species. It is the only large carnivorous mammal endemic to the Iberian Peninsula and the most endangered in Europe. Only an urgent intervention could stop its extinction process and prevent the first disappearance of a feline in Europe in 2000 years.
The species, which in Portugal reached a pre-extinction scenario, in 2002 had only 52 adult individuals in the wild. Thanks to conservation efforts in Spain and, later, also in Portugal, the Iberian lynx population began to grow. Twenty years later, the species has now exceeded 1000 adult individuals in the wild, with an estimated population in Portugal of around 200 lynx, spread over a vast territory between the municipalities of Serpa and Tavira. Step by step, the Iberian lynx is returning to its historical territories in the Iberian Peninsula.
A historical perspective
In 1979, the Iberian Lynx was the target of a campaign to recognize the situation of the species in Portugal - LPN/ICN Campaign "Save the Lynx and the Serra da Malcata".
The campaign managed to collect over 46,500 signatures to protect the mountain range. The way was open for the creation of the Partial Natural Reserve of Serra da Malcata in 1981, recognizing it as "one of the last natural refuges in the Portuguese territory, keeping botanical and faunal values that make it a privileged and especially important ecosystem (...) that must be protected". At the time, this was where the most notable nucleus of the Iberian lynx was located.
In 2010, LPN and Lisboa Editora produced the video "The Iberian Lynx". Today, the species' distribution and population numbers have clearly increased. But this video serves to raise awareness among the population in general and schoolchildren in particular about the particularities of the Iberian lynx, the risks to which it is subject and the measures that have been taken for its recovery.
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