Dan Ward has sent me his latest Lynx Brief, the essential periodic review in English of the state of the Iberian Lynx.
This issue looks at, among other topics, the international Iberian lynx seminar, current Iberian lynx numbers, plans for Iberian lynx reintroductions, inappropriate predator control, declines in wild rabbits and transparency of information in Castilla -La Mancha.
Some highlights which I have cropped from the original:
- On lynx numbers As reported at the III International Seminar, Iberian Lynx recovery has continued well in the Sierra Morena area just north of Andújar, Andalucía, with 40 breeding females, 55 cubs born in 2008 and 150 individuals overall. This compares with 18 females, 22 cubs and 60 individuals in 2002….As a result of this increase, the lynx area in Andújar-Cardeña has probably reached its carrying capacity and thus could provide animals for future reintroductions elsewhere. This is an unexpected, welcome and important achievement, not least because it is generally preferable to reintroduce felines bred in the wild rather than those bred in captivity (if possible) because they are more likely to be fully adapted to living in the wild.
- In addition to these in situ achievements in the Sierra Morena, the ex situ captive breeding programme has also progressed well, with 52 individuals, 24 of which were bred in captivity.
Moreover, the ex situ population will also be able to provide 20 to 40 individuals per year for reintroductions, from 2010. Finally, in Doñana, the lynx population seems to have remained steady in recent years, with around 50 individuals reported in total each year between 2002 and 2008. This is despite the loss of at least 9 individuals to Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV) in 2007, thanks partly to the successful translocation of a breeding male lynx from Andújar-Cardeña to Doñana in December 2007
(see LynxBrief no. 10 and 11). Moreover, a second lynx was successfully translocated into Doñana in November 2008.
- On predator control Much of Spain and Portugal is used extensively for hunting, and this is especially true of current and potential lynx areas; e.g. 70% of Spain is covered by hunting estates (used by over 1 million registered hunters), and the majority of lynx living in the wild are situated in such estates. Moreover, techniques used by gamekeepers and landowners to kill, especially, rabbit and partridge predators have been strongly implicated in the past decline of the Iberian Lynx, and the on-going decline of many other species. For example, it is suspected that the 1990s extinction of the lynx population in Montes de Toledo, central Spain (where good habitat and rabbit populations remain) was due to the widespread use of leg traps and snares in the area.
- On rabbits and lynx One of the key obstacles to reversing rabbit decline has been that rabbits, and rabbit conservation, in Spain and Portugal have not been given the profile and attention they deserve….Fortunately, this situation has recently changed. In Portugal in 2006, national authorities re-classified the European Rabbit as “Near Threatened”, and in Spain in 2007, the species was re-classified by national authorities as “Vulnerable”. Moreover, the World Conservation Union (IUCN) has also, just this year, re-classified the European Rabbit globally in its native range (Spain, Portugal and parts of north Africa) from “Least Concern” to “Near Threatened”.
- Castilla – La Mancha and transparency a lack of transparency of information has also been a key obstacle to Iberian Lynx conservation in recent years. A very current example, discussed at the International Seminar, was the presence of lynx in Castilla – La Mancha….The Castilla – La Mancha authorities have argued that they cannot release the location of their lynx because they fear attracting too many nature watchers to these areas. However, the precise location of lynx in Andalucía has been widely publicised for many years without a detrimental impact from the public….It has been alleged that the real reason that the Castilla – La Mancha government do not want to publicise the location of their lynx is actually because they are reluctant to share knowledge (and thus power), or because of a fear on the part of landowners that public knowledge of lynx presence will increase pressure for restrictions on the current use of predator control methods. Moreover, it has also been alleged that at least one of the locations of lynx in Castilla – La Mancha is a large estate bordering Andalucía, owned by a British Lord, who allegedly has considerable influence over local authorities.
Photo from the Iberian lynx recovery programme.