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Population recovery of Iberian Lynx in Andalusia (Lince Andalucía)
Start date: Jul 1, 2002, End date: Jun 30, 2006 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Background The Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) is the most threatened carnivorous mammal in Europe. This medium-sized feline (8-14 kg) lives in areas characterised by a mixture of dense woodland, Mediterranean scrub and pasture, especially areas with an abundance of rabbits and where interference from humans is minimal. Until the 14th century, the species could be found in all across Spain and Portugal. Since that time, and particularly in recent decades, its population and distribution area have suffered an alarming decline. Today, it is estimated that just around 150 lynxes survive in the south-western quadrant of the Iberian peninsula, clustered in small groups, many of them isolated and with scant possibilities for survival. The major threats for this species are fragmentation and damage to its habitat, the scarcity of prey (rabbit), a high unnatural mortality rate and a lack of awareness about the seriousness of the threat to extinction. Objectives The project aimed to reach a favourable conservation status for the Iberian lynx in Andalusia, which is home to the two populations with the greatest guarantees of viability: Doñana and Sierra Morena (the Cardeña-Montoro area). It planned to improve its habitat (areas of refuge and feeding grounds, connecting isolated populations), increase the availability of prey (including the leasing of hunting rights over rabbits) and reduce unnatural mortality (animals being snared or run over, etc.). Measures would be carried out through management agreements with owners (the majority of whom are private individuals) and be complemented by the monitoring of the lynxes and patrolling of the areas identified as important for the conservation of the species. At the same time, in coordination with another project in Castile-La Mancha, an awareness-raising campaign would be introduced. The campaign would be targeted at all the sectors involved in the management of the species (hunters, public authorities, private owners, etc.), as well as the general public. Results The project achieved its main aim to increase the lynx populations. A 49% increase in the lynx population (up to around 188 individuals in all) a 73% increase in the total surface occupied and a 30% increase in the number of breeding female territories. A supplementary feeding programme resulted in an increase in the breeding success rate. The exchange of individuals among the different populations was another key result. Though full connectivity has not been achieved among the subpopulations of Sª Morena and even less between Sª Morena -Doñana, there is evidence of individuals moving from one area to another both in Doñana and in Sª Morena. The project helped to maintain a genetic ‘pool’ by providing the captive breeding programme with 13 individuals. The first cubs from mixed parents from Doñana and Sª Morena were born in 2006. Conservation of the lynx will be aided considerably by the increase in the rabbit population, which was achieved by the creation of captive breeding stations, habitat management (sowings, fertilisations and clearings), installation of drinking and feeding troughs, control of predators, hunting lease and control of ungulates. Lynx conservation will also benefit from management agreements between private landowners and the regional administration or NGOs. Lynx survival is dependant on hunting estates that preserve the Mediterranean forest. It should be noted that many of the activities carried out will also benefit other species of EC interest, such as the Imperial Eagle and Bonelli's Eagle. The project carried out an extensive awareness campaign that included the publication of a wide range of promotional material and direct contact with thousands of local residents, students and hunters. An increase in the knowledge of the species and its prey was also achieved through an intense monitoring programme with detailed censuses, search of tracks and trails and DNA analysis. Other actions that have benefited the lynx populations include the • Prevention non-natural causes of death. • Creation of a geo-referenced mortality database and surveillance. • Road correction measures. • Repair or walling up of dangerous wells (though this threat is still a strong menace for the population of Doñana). This project has been awarded the title of "Best of the Best" from a shortlist of 26 "Best" LIFE Nature projects in 2007-2008.
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