“Iberian lynx coming back from extinction”

At the Donana National Park on the Iberian coast in Spain, veterinarian Astrid Vargas an American has been running a captive breeding program for the past five and a half years to bring the Iberian Lynx back from the brink of  of extinction. She began in December 2003 with five adults in Donana, four females and a male to bring the most endangered cat back from extinction.

Critically endangered Iberian Lynx

Critically endangered Iberian Lynx

Now with 17 surviving cubs born in captivity in Donana and 77 lynxes in captivity at the two centers run by Vargas and in the zoo in the southwestern city of Jerez, she will now begin reintroducing the species to the wild to years ahead of schedule. The next big challenge is to prepare the captive-born animals for their survival in the wild.

Spanish lynx cubs

Spanish lynx cubs

The plan is to begin releasing a few animals next year into areas where they were at one time abundant forming an overlapping linking system where the animals have corridors that allow exchanges between populations where possible away from human populations of humans.


Investing  in one species to help a whole ecosystem

Two more breeding centers are planned, in southern Portugal and in western Spain’s Extremadura region, to cope with the growing number of lynx.

In Donana, the captive animals live in a fenced compound with 20 separate enclosures, where they are fed mostly rabbits, including live ones so the cubs can learn to hunt. In a small building nearby, Vargas and her team of experts monitor them 24 hours a day using 57 closed-circuit television cameras. The only time humans intervene in the breeding enclosures is if a fight breaks out between the cats. Cubs can get killed.

Vargas, who has worked on saving the black-footed ferret and the Mexican wolf in the United States and the Siberian tiger in Russia, said the work is “satisfying and very terribly tiring”.

“When you are responsible for a lot of live animals that are critically endangered you never disconnect. It’s day and night.”

The captive breeding program is only the beginning of the process that could take another 16 years and in which the Iberian lynx must pass from being “critically endangered”  the highest category of risk for a wild animal under the International Union for Conservation of Nature — to “endangered” to “threatened”.

The ultimate goal is to protect the entire endangered habitat, which is the Mediterranean forest and scrub land, and we are using the lynx as the key species to accomplish this goal. By reestablishing one key species animal for the well-being of a whole the entire ecosystem will benefit.  For 20 years,  this ecosystem has suffered. By protecting the lynx, we are protecting the entire balance of nature, including other endangered animals like the Spanish imperial eagle.

You too can make a difference help something or some animal. Do not stop until you have made a difference-one person at a time.

Resources

Excerpts courtesy of   Terradaily.com/

Worlds most_endangered_feline_brought_back_from_the_brink


Excerpts courtesy of  Wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/Linces19

Image 1. Animal.discovery.com/mammals/lynx/pictures/lynx

Image 2. Emiljung.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/iberian_lynx_cubs

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