THE Iberian Lynx could soon be on the prowl in Murcia.
An agreement has been reached between the Murcia regional government and the Junta de Andalucia to reintroduce the endangered Lynx to Lorca – a territory where it used to roam in large numbers until the activity of man drove it out.
One million euros is going to be put towards the project, with the regional government contributing 40% and the rest provided by the European Commission.
The territory of Europe’s biggest cat species has been steadily increasing in recent years following massive conservation efforts.
The aim of the plan is to establish a new breeding population to not only increase the cat numbers, but also to engineer genetic diversity.
The loss of natural habitat, snares, illegal hunting and being hit by cars have all factored into creating an environment which is extremely challenging for them to live.
By 2002, the number of known individual lynx left in the wild was down to just 94, living in two isolated pockets of Andalucia – one in Doñana (Huelva) and another in Andujar (Jaén).
Recognising the danger facing Europe’s largest cat species, the Spanish government launched a captive breeding programme using joint funds between the EU and Spanish administrations estimated at more than €100 million.
The release of young cats to find new territory in the wild has seen the population spread across Andalucia, Castilla-La Mancha and Extremadura and into southern Portugal.
The latest count revealed a lynx population of 1,111 including both adults and cubs.
They have even been spotted in the Madrid Community and, most extraordinarily, on the outskirts of Barcelona.
In 2015, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) downgraded the threat level from ‘Critically Endangered’ to Endangered’.
The European Life Lynx connect program was given €18.7 million over a period of five years to create two new lynx areas, one in Lorca and the other in Sierra Arana (Granada).
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