Archive for December, 2008

Latest lynx brief by Dan Ward

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

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.

Read the Lynx Brief 12

Photo from the Iberian lynx recovery programme.

Iberian wolf ecology workshop

Sunday, December 14th, 2008

The Basque Iberian wolf group, Grupo Lobo de Euskadi, is organising a couple of days of talks on the 19th and 20th of December, 2008 in Vitoria. This will be the fourth of these meetings, reuniting wolf experts in Spain, and will be attended by naturalists, biologists, ecologists and farmers as well as being open to members of the public. One of the country’s foremost wolf experts, Carlos Sanz, will be among the contributors and the main focus of this year’s meeting will be given over to the national wolf conservation movements and their opinions on the various wolf management strategies of Spain’s autonomous communties. Previous meetings have included themes such as the biology of the Iberian wolf and problems relating to wolves and livestock. Contact details for applying to attend are included on the link below. It promises to be interesting!

The programme can be downloaded here on pdf.

Iberian wolf by Carlos Sanz

Documentary about Spain’s forests

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

I enjoyed this documentary about the biodiversity of the forests of Spain, whose geographical positions means they are the most varied in the whole of Europe. Uploaded by forestman.

Climate head attacks Aznar

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

The top UN climate official Yvo de Boer has attacked former Spanish president and climate-change denialist Jose Maria Aznar, stating during a press conference “I’d say to him: ‘Look out of your window.’ I think that in a few years we could have the Spanish Sahara which he’ll be able to see in person’. (PS I don’t have the original words in English so I’ve re-formulated them)
El Pais

Spanish bird encyclopedia

Friday, December 5th, 2008

SEO has teamed up with a well-known bank and produced this multimedia encyclopedia of the 563 birds seen commonly in Spain. The site is packed with useful information on everything you could think of connected with birds in Spain with heaps of pictures, sound, video, games for kids and maps, and easy to navigate around. It is, however, frustratingly to easy to close the main window. People with slow internet connections should probably refrain, but interestingly, 60,000 free CD-ROM/books containing the complete encyclopedia are also to be distributed.
Encyclopedia of birds of Spain

Spanish wind power record

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

The record for electricity production from wind power was beaten again on 24th November at around 0500am when around 43% of power in Spain (9,253 MW) was covered. By the end of the year wind power will have covered 11% of Spain’s needs. Spain is the third-largest generator of wind power in the world, with about 16,000 MW of installed capacity with plans for 20,000 MW by 2010.
Juan López de Uralde in El Mundo

And on the topic of wind energy, the largest onshore wind farm in Europe started producing power yesterday today in northern Portugal. The farm is to provide enough electricity for up to a million people. A total of 120 windmills are dotted across the highlands of the Upper Minho region of Portugal which continues to forge its reputation as a renewables champion.
The Guardian

Outlook optimistic for lynx

Monday, December 1st, 2008

Photo from La Olivilla centre in Jaén (EFE). The latest news on the Iberian lynx bodes well for the future of the species. Speaking at the III Seminario de Conservación del Lince Ibérico in November. Urs Breitenmoser, feline expert with the World Conservation Union stated “We have gone from a critical reality of extinction to a situation of just vulnerability. El Pais.

This year a total of 82 Iberian lynx were born, including 21 in captivity, and including cubs there now may be as many as 200 lynxes in Spain, up from 100 in 2002. In addition, more than 50 lynxes are doing their bit in the various captive breeding centres. A record 13 cubs born in captivity have survived this year. The first releases of captive lynxes in the wild are set for autumn 2009 in Guadalmellato, Cordoba. El Mundo There is, however, still a very, very long way to go. It is worth remember that as late as the early 1960s there were still between 5,000 and 6,000 iberian lynxes in the Peninsula.

Meanwhile, the Junta de Castilla-La Mancha has confirmed the presence of lynxes the Montes de Toledo made up of at least 15 animals and 3 breeding territories. The photo below was taken by an automatic camera tracking these Castillian lynxes, which well provide vital genetic variation to the Doñana and Sierra Morena lynxes. El Mundo

Iberian lynx webcam

Monday, December 1st, 2008

The authorities in Doñana have at last set up a series of live webcams on the lynxes in the breeding centre pens.  I haven’t yet had much success in connecting.
Live webcams here

Illegal hunting ring broken

Monday, December 1st, 2008

An important illegal hunting ring has been broken in the Cantabrian mountains of Asturias and León where two and six men respectively have been arrested. Various arms were found in their houses along with frozen and dried animal remains. Included among the boar, deer and rebeco (chamois) discoveries were specimens of endangered animals, a European Genet and a Capercaillie, the latter a species threatened with extinction in these mountains. The men were arrested following months of detective work by Seprona, the wildlife protection unit of the Guardia Civíl, and are suspected of charging money for guiding hunts as also found were large amounts of cash and paperwork stamped and ready for the transportation of the “trophies”. Other possible species to be found in the area concerned are Cantabrian brown bear and Iberian wolf. The case is continuing and more arrests are likely.

News from lne.es 

 

 

Roman bear mosaic

Monday, December 1st, 2008

The symbol of Madrid represented by the bear and the strawberry tree is well known, but here’s a much earlier image showing Iberian bears liking for these arbutus cherries. The bear forms part of a C4th AD mosaic found at Villa Fortunatus in Fraga, Zaragoza, and is part of an agricultural calendar, representing the month of November. It can be seen at the Museo Provincial de Zaragoza. Sadly today, bears in Spain no longer gorge on these fruits in autumn to the extent as they did as they are largely absent from the range of the strawberry tree.