Friday, June 3, 2022

The Conservation and Reintroduction Success of the Iberian Lynx

Good news on the rewilding front. The bounce back of the Iberian Lynx.

The Iberian Lynx was long relatively common (for a big cat) on the Iberian Peninsula (where Spain and Portugal are). Fifty years ago there were thousands. They were killed by famers - because it was thought (incorrectly) it preyed on livestock. They were killed by hunters for pelts and trophies. 

By 1997 there were only about 80 left in the wild. The Iberian Lynx was on track to be the first big cat species that went extinct since the saber-tooth (although the Amur Leopard is also damn close to extinction). So Spain did what other groups dedicated to saving animals did with successful results. They used a captured population already in zoos to breed more Lynx and then introduce them back into the wild.

Besides the inherent "goodness" of re-introducing a predator into the ecosystem and preventing overpopulation of other animals, information was shared with farmers. 

Turns out that the exploding fox population was actually killing a lot of livestock now and the Lynx, rather than going after livestock as previously thought, the Lynx actually kills fox and rabbits and are helpful for farming. Note: one of the huge problems with introduction of wolves in the Yellowstone area is that they do go and kill livestock when their other food stocks are low.

After the conservation techniques, Spain and Portugal* decided to work together to save the species. There are now over 1,000 animals in the wild, both from reintroduction AND habitat protection.

A success.

*Remember that both Spain and Portugal were dictatorships until 1975 and 1974 respectively. Neither were particularly open about conservation or collaboration.

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