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THE IBERIAN LYNX

THE WORLD'S MOST ENDANGERED FELINE, HAS A NEW HOME AT THE VALE DO GUADIANA NATURE PARK

The world’s most endangered feline, the Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus), is being gradually reintroduced to the Vale do Guadiana Nature Park (PNVG) since early 2015; it was once its natural habitat but the lynx disappeared from the area due to direct hunting. Today, the lynx population is booming; a visit to the region offers the opportunity to get to know this extraordinary species and this beautiful protected area.

THE IBERIAN LYNX HAS RETURNED AND WALKS THE LANDS OF SERPA

 

The results of this reintroduction process continue to exceed all expectations, due to the conditions of the territory, to the proper development of the process itself and to the cooperation of the local population that welcomed this new inhabitant with enthusiasm and expectation right from the start.

Currently, this protected area is the home of xx lynxes in excellent health, some reintroduced and others already born here. The former are wild lynxes or animals born in different recovery centres that find in this environment the perfect conditions to develop autonomously in the wild.

 

This area was a natural choice, since this species had already occurred in the region. There is no certainty that a stable population existed, but the lynxes would necessarily pass through the area. It is believed that the Guadiana functioned as the southern corridor of the Iberian Peninsula. The abundance of rabbits, the main component of the lynxes’ diet, would have been another determinant factor.

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The reintroduction occurs mainly at the beginning of each year, during the reproductive season, and includes a 2-month adaptation period in a temporary fenced-off area. It spans over 2 hectares and reproduces the natural conditions that the lynx will find when released. This fenced area works as an anchor from which couples expand into the territory, looking for spaces not yet occupied by other lynxes and more abundant food. 

All lynxes have a name that begins with a letter related to the year of their birth. In 2018 were born xx kittens and all of them will have a name beginning with the letter "P". If you’d like, you can suggest names for the baby lynxes by contacting the PNVG.

The lynx pair that dwells in the municipality of Serpa is formed by "Mundo", a male that came from Seville, and "Malva", a female released in this protected area. They already had a litter of 4 kittens, born in 2017. Their territory is located in the vicinity of the great river of the south.

It is an elusive species, although some individuals allow themselves to be seen more than others. In the words of Carlos Carrapato, one of the technicians most involved in this process, "each has its own personality". Contrary to popular belief, the lynx is an animal that does not attack. It can stand its ground or growl when feeling threatened but, as long as you do not approach, there should be no problem. However, you should not forget that this animal considers itself a top predator and is not afraid when it sees people. For this reason, caution is required.

The Lynx plays important roles in the ecosystem; roles that are equally interesting for some activities with significance to the region. The Lynx makes the rabbit populations healthier by hunting the weaker and the diseased and, in this sense, improves the hunting activity. Another example is its function as a top predator, controlling the populations of Egyptian mongooses and foxes. It is thus a strong ally of cattle breeders.

If, in the past, poaching was one of the main causes of its disappearance in Portugal, together with the destruction of the habitats and the decline of the wild rabbit, the present offers a distinct and more encouraging scenario. Direct hunting has declined significantly and the lynx begins to be seen as an ally of the populations. Even so, the threats lurk.

Between Mértola and Beja there is a warning sign: this is a "lynx zone"; fearless, lynxes cross the roads without acknowledging the danger of being hit, especially during their long dispersions in search of new territory.

Drive safely for your sake and for the sake of this extraordinary species. If you run over a lynx or find an animal that has been hit call 112 and follow the instructions. Do not handle or move the animal. Do not be afraid to be persecuted or fined. Signalling these incidents safely is one way of helping.


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