Dan Ward

Last imperial eagle shot in Portugal

March 11th, 2009

Portuguese environmentalists have denounced the deliberate shooting of the country’s only nesting male Iberian Imperial eagle.The incident took place in February in the Vale do Guadiana natural park, close to the country’s southeastern border with Spain.

Miguel Rodrigues, spokesperson for SOS Lynx, said, “Irrational attitudes constitute one of the main barriers to predator conservation in Spain and Portugal. If predator persecution cannot be adequately controlled, the future recovery of many important predator species will be in doubt.” The species was once widespread across the Iberian Peninsula, but is now confined to small parts of central and southern Spain, and areas close to the Spanish border in Portugal.

Dan Ward on his new lynxblog comments on this shooting that:

“Irrational attitudes constitute one of the main barriers to predator conservation in Spain and Portugal, and if predator persecution cannot be adequately controlled, the future recovery of many important predator species will be in doubt”.

The Spanish (or Iberian) imperial eagle is one of the three rarest birds of prey in the world. Spain currently (2007) is home to all 234 pairs of imperial eagles, with a slight rise in recent years (see news archive on iberianature.

Latest lynx brief by Dan Ward

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.

Latest lynx brief

April 23rd, 2008

Dan Ward has just sent me the latest and as usual excellent Lynx Brief (pdf). This issue looks at:

  • The serious situation for the lynx in Doñana whose population seems to be going from bad to worse. He calls for an action plan to combat:

– High traffic speeds and volumes
– Habitat loss to intensive agriculture
– Apparent mismanagement of protected areas
– The population’s small size and low diversity
– Conflicting attitudes amongst local people

This is all undoubtedly true but I personally feel the greatest threat to the lynx in Doñana is the extremely low rabbit population across the park which is forcing young lynx to disperse into conflictive areas. Despite being increasingly hemmed in by infrastructure, Doñana is still big and wild enough to support a far larger and almost sustainable lynx population than now, as indeed it did until myxamatosis arrived.

  • The Iberian Lynx captive breeding programme is advancing well, both in terms of more captive breeding success, and in terms of actions and plans made for: further captive breeding centres, and; the planned reintroduction of captively bred animals in the future.
  • Lynx presence in Cuidad Real, Castilla-La Mancha with a population of 15 individuals, including 3 reproductive females, 2 adult males, 4 sub-adults and 6 cubs

Cuidad Real province borders the area of northern Andalucía with current lynx presence (Andújar – Cardeña). This, combined with the fact that extensive surveys conducted over previous years failed to confirm lynx presence, suggests that the lynx in Castilla-La Mancha are individuals dispersed from northern Andalucía rather than a separate remnant population. Unofficial suggestions have been made that the photographed lynx come from a specific private hunting estate bordering Andalucía in southern Cuidad Real province, which, if true, would confirm the hypothesis that these animals dispersed from Andalucía. Unfortunately, however, the regional government has
refused to confirm the precise location of these lynx. The Castilla-La Mancha government has justified withholding this information so as to protect the lynxes’ habitat. However, the reverse would seem to be true. The precise location of lynxes in Andalucía has been widely publicised for several years without apparent detrimental impact upon their habitat. Moreover, it would seem that accurate and openly-available information about lynx presence has been key to allowing effective lynx conservation in Andalucía through co-ordination, lobbying, conservation projects, research and outreach.

Also check out Dan’s recommendation for the new soslynx.org website with some beautiful photos and videos.