HOPES for the future survival of the world’s most endangered cat species have been raised after the discovery of an unknown population of Iberian lynx.
Government officials in Castilla La Mancha confirmed the existence of the colony after two adult lynx were caught on camera in the region.
“We are excited and amazed by this discovery,” Luis Suarez, a spokesman for welfare group WWF, said.
“However, we are a long way from saving the animal from imminent extinction,” he added.
At present, the exact numbers of the new colony are unknown, but the population is believed to consist of both adults and cubs.
The location is being kept confidential to protect the animals from poachers, but it is believed to be on private land.
Officials are now trying to determine if the newly-discovered colony is genetically distinct from the larger and more stable population found in the Sierra Morena mountain range between Jaén and Córdoba.
The lynx was previously thought to be extinct in Castilla La Mancha following the last recorded sighting in 1997.
“Although it is still early, we can confirm that a population of Iberian lynx has been seen in Castilla La Mancha,” regional government president José María Barreda said.
According to the most recent survey into numbers of the Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus), there are around 110 adult Iberian lynx in two isolated breeding populations in Andalucía, the largest of which is in the Doñana National Park in Huelva.
There are also thought to be isolated pockets of the animal in Extremadura.
The Iberian lynx was recently declared extinct from Portugal.