Return of the cat

LAST UPDATED: 1 Apr, 2009 @ 13:43
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Return of the cat

Junta starts expropriations for new lynx reserves as population grows

TWELVE generous landowners in Andalucía have signed away swathes of their property to make way for two new reserves for the World’s most endangered feline.

More than 1,000 hectares of land in Córdoba and 3,000 hectares in Jaen now belongs to the the Junta de Andalucía as the regional government gears up to reintroduce the Iberian lynx to the two provinces in 2010.

With only 250 of the animals remaining in the wild in the Iberian peninsula, the feline (Lynx pardinus) is in danger of dying out.

But this 26-million-euro ‘land grab,’ paid for by the European Union under its LIFE scheme to protect the rare cat, seeks to return the animal to areas from which it is extinct.

Although the animal was once abundant throughout Spain and Portugal, today the Iberian lynx is only found in pockets in Huelva, Extremadura, Castilla La Mancha and the Sierra Morena mountains in northern Andalucía.

It became extinct from Portugal in 2002.

“The reintroduction of this emblematic species to areas it is considered extinct is, without doubt, one of the key factors in our work with the EU,” said the environment chief at the Junta, Cinta Castillo.

The reserves will be similar to that in the Doñana National Park in Huelva, which currently has 45 lynx including 19 females of breeding age living in a secure compound. Over the next two years, experts have been charged with fencing off the areas and repopulating them with the animals favourite food – rabbits.

The news comes as 2008 figures show the population of the animal in Andalucía has doubled since the start of the LIFE scheme in 2002.

According to the regional government, there are now 150 of the cats living in the wild in the Sierra Morena compared to only 60 six years ago.

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