The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is considering the possibility of lowering the status of the Iberian lynx protection. Accordingly, nowadays this felid is a 'critically endangered' species: the world's most endangered feline in the world, there is currently discussion for bringing it to the category of 'at risk' of extinction thanks to conservation efforts joined in Andalusia.
The co-president and chairman of the IUCN Specialist Group felines, Urs Breitenmoser, announced that this international institution is balancing this option after he evaluated as "very good" the evolution of conservation efforts for the Iberian lynx.
In this regard, Breitenmoser said that he has seen first hand the technicians work during his visit to the countryside, and after some days, " I can say I'm really happy with the work being done in Andalusia".
From his point of view, is "particularly significant" that the two large populations of Iberian lynx, Doñana and Sierra Morena Aljarafe (Andujar-Cardeña), have grown up over the last years. He also highlighted the performance in the reintroduction areas in Córdoba (Guadalmellato) and Jaén (Guarrizas) saying that, if the evolution remains positive, "soon will welcome more lynx."
On the other hand, he stressed the "important" role of the captive breeding program 'Ex-Situ' in the conservation of the Iberian lynx, with a continued and significant contribution of individuals for reintroduction into the wild. In short, the three pillars of the Iberian lynx are the wild population, the reintroduction and the captive breeding programs, are showing an "amazing" evolution.
Therefore, Breitenmoser announced that IUCN "is considering the possibility of lowering the protection category Iberian lynx from 'critically endangered' to 'at risk' of extinction. Although they have not taken the decision already, because they still have to consider the scientific data.
"There is still much to do"
The chairman of the IUCN Specialist Group felines works with the Ministry of Environment in the Iberian lynx since 2001 and has participated in the design of conservation strategies, such as the lynx reintroduction plan in Andalusia. He described this possibility as a "great" news, because this was "unimaginable" ten years ago, when "all we had was a dream."
However, he said that he "don't want people to misunderstand this possibility" as a species 'endangered' is not far from an animal whose retention is not jeopardized, but quite the opposite. In this regard, recalled that "work has been done is a small part of that we still have to do."
On the other hand, the co-chair of the IUCN, which has been involved in research projects on the ecology of carnivore for 25 years, has found that social support for this conservation project is one of the areas of work where we must deepen "with the same intensity" as the work in the countryside, because one of the challenges of the project Life-Lynx is to achieve the expansion of the species.
The next step in lynx conservation areas should be to increase the presence of its primary food, the rabbit, for which "not only is necessary" to give a series of ecological conditions, but local people "are willing to accept them."
Conservation creates jobs
The Swiss researcher expressed confidence that local people could understand that this project offers possibilities for progress and development. The conservation of a species unique in the world "can also generate jobs," he said.
In this time of economic difficulty is "even more important than before" that the companies receive positive messages like this, from a conservation initiative that also creates jobs.
"It's important that people not only talk about Spain as the country that hosts the team's World Cup champion," joked Breitenmoser, who asserted that "the conservation program should also be considered from the standpoint of economic and related development opportunities it offers."
Also commented that for Spain, a world tourist destination that generates a lot of resources, is important not only to give good services, but also to show a good image to other countries, developing a project as ambitious as the Lynx' conservation. Its "an great opportunity to give an excellent image throughout the world."
The Iberian lynx is the most emblematic endangered species in Spain and a symbol and a enormous challenge for conservation. A seteep decline had relegated them to two isolated populations in Doñana and Andújar, both in Andalusia's region, with around 60 and 200 individuals, respectively.
It is suspected that genetic factors might be behind recently observed decreases in survival and reproduction in this populations. Genomic researches will be helpful to improve the conservation programmes, in the Captive Breeding Centres and in the ex situ one, finding the specimens with genetic problems.