“We have saved the Iberian Lynx”, says Secretary of State for Nature Conservation following Silves breeding success
The Secretary of State for Nature Conservation said today that Portugal and Spain have succeeded in “saving the Iberian lynx”, thanks to the “success” of the reintroduction project of the species in the Iberian Peninsula, part of which is based in the Algarvian municipality of Silves. Currently there are approximately 800 living in the wild thanks to the coordinated breeding programme.
“We can say today that we saved the Iberian lynx. Obviously it is still threatened, the number of individuals we have is very limited, but we are already entering into cruising speed”, said the Secretary of State for Conservation of Nature, Forests and Spatial Planning, João Catarino, speaking to news agency Lusa.
The official stressed that “the success and the way the project to reintroduce the species has gone on” with “extraordinarily positive” results is fantastic, taking into account that in the 70s and 80s there were “less than 200” specimens of the Iberian Lynx living throughout the Iberian Peninsula, and “today there are already 800”, 109 of which are in the Algarve and Alentejo.
“The adaptation to the natural environment” of the released Iberian lynx specimens “has been very positive”, he added, revealing that 91 births of Iberian lynx have been recorded in the wild in Portugal alone, the majority (75) in the last two years ( 29 in 2018 and 46 in 2019).
“We can obviously be proud of the work that has been done in the last decade to save this species, which was heavily threatened, but is still threatened, and I think that today we can look at it with much more security in its future than five or six years ago.”, said Mr. Catarino.
The Secretary of State was speaking to Lusa about the release today of two Iberian lynxes in the Guadiana Valley, in the municipality of Mértola, district of Beja, increasing to 109 the number of specimens living freely in the Portuguese countryside.
Mr. Catarino said that a new application to the European Union’s LIFE program is underway for the “LynxConnect” project, which is the successor to the previous “Life + Iberlince”, which “ran until 2018, and ended when everything that was planned was done”.
The new EU funding application, which involves the Portuguese and Spanish partners, “has already received a favourable opinion”, he said, adding that “everything is very well underway and everything indicates that it will be approved”.
According to the minister, if the new request is approved, which will fund a series of projects in areas where there are lynxes now living in the wild, it will “continue to consolidate the objectives of reintroduction” of the species.
Asked if there is a risk that the process of reintroducing the species will run out of funding due to the intermittency between community boards and application approvals, the Secretary of State replied: “There cannot be. In a project of this nature that would be to compromise all the work of a decade and that is why it cannot happen,” he said, stressing that “one of the virtues of this project is precisely the continuity that has existed over time in financing”.
“For good projects there is no lack of financing and, fortunately, we have a set of community instruments, and also the State Budget, that can help us to fund projects in the scope of the reintroduction of the species”, he said. In addition to the EU LIFE program, there are other entities, such as the Environmental Fund, which has contributed every year to financing the National Centre for the Reproduction of Iberian Lynx (CNRLI), in Silves, for example.
He concluded: “Obviously, if the application to the LIFE Program is approved, it will help to do much more, but, regardless, there is a guarantee that the million euros that have been invested in Silves’ CNRLI every year will continue to happen, because we cannot ruin all the serious work that has been done over the years and above all work that has had extraordinary results.”