The Lynx working group, which coordinates the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge (MITECO), publishes a report with the balance of the state of the Iberian populations of the species. As a result of the joint conservation efforts of the species in recent years, the study shows that the population of Lynx pardinus in Spain and Portugal it has reached the sum of 1,111 specimens registered in both countries, according to 2020 data.
This figure constitutes the maximum numerical recorded since there are monitoring programs for the species and represents a very significant increase, taking into account that in 2002 fewer than 100 specimens were counted. It is one of the most successful feline conservation programs in the world.
The Vice President and Minister for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge, Teresa Ribera, has positively valued these data: “For a person in charge of biodiversity, one of the greatest joys that can be received is news like the one we have just heard. immense luck to be able to combine the best in terms of administrative effort and knowledge to be able to reach this figure, which has exceeded initial expectations. ”
The Iberian lynx working group, made up of the competent environmental administrations of both countries, has compiled the monitoring data for 2020 in this report and notes that last year was very good for the population evolution of the species, with an increase 30% compared to the 2019 census. This demographic curve allows us to be optimistic and draws scenarios that keep the Iberian big cat away from the critical risk of disappearance. However, experts ask for prudence and insist on the need to keep efforts and programs underway, given that the species is not out of danger and is still legally considered in danger of extinction in the Spanish Catalog of Threatened Species.
Andalusia, in the lead
A large majority of the specimens (87.5%) are distributed in different areas of the southwestern quadrant of Spain, especially in the five nuclei of Andalusia, which host more than half of the Spanish population, followed by Castilla-La Mancha – with a third of the lynx – and Extremadura, with 141 specimens.
In Portugal 140 lynx live in the Guadiana Valley area. In total there are 14 nuclei with a stable presence of lynx throughout the Iberian Peninsula, the most important being those located in the Sierra Morena environment – with 603 lynxes -, the Montes de Toledo (145), the Guadiana Valley (140) and the Matachel area in Extremadura (131).
In 2020, 414 births of 239 breeding females were counted. Global productivity, understood as the number of cubs born per reproductive or territorial female, was 1.7. All the main population parameters considered (total number of lynxes, number of reproductive females and number of cubs born) show a positive trend since the beginning of the coordinated action programs in 2002.
Key role of captive breeding
In addition to the set of actions to manage the habitat and protect lynxes against existing threats in the natural environment, the conservation program ex situ The Iberian lynx has played a key role in reaching these positive figures. The program, which includes captive breeding work and the reintroduction of specimens, is the result of coordinated actions within the framework of the Memorandum of Understanding for the application of the Iberian Lynx Conservation Strategy in Spain, signed between MITECO and the autonomous communities of Andalusia, Castilla-La Mancha and Extremadura. Portugal is also actively participating in this program.
Since the first releases of lynx to the natural environment of individuals born in captivity began in 2011, until 2021, 305 specimens have been reintroduced, which exceeds initial forecasts and expectations. Equally important is that the observed survival and acclimatization of the reintroduced specimens in all the selected release areas is high.