The recently published 2022 Iberian lynx census brings great news from Portugal and Spain. The total lynx population now stands at 1,668, including 1,105 adults and immatures, along with 563 cubs. Notably, the census records 326 reproductive or “territorial” females. This Iberian Lynx News Roundup 2023 has been translated from the official Life LYNXCONNECT project website.
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Life LYNXCONNECT Conservation project
Achieving the conservation goal of moving the Iberian lynx from ‘endangered’ to ‘vulnerable’ status, as per the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, requires 750 breeding females in the wild. If this target is reached, it would represent a remarkable recovery of this critically endangered species.
Since conservation efforts began in 2002 to prevent the extinction of the Iberian lynx, the population has grown exponentially. The increase in both the number of individuals and occupied areas has occurred in an orderly manner, both in the remaining areas from 2002 and in those reintroduced for conservation purposes. Additionally, some lynxes have dispersed throughout the Iberian Peninsula, even settling in areas initially not included in conservation efforts.
Work is currently underway to promote the connectivity between different subpopulations of the Iberian lynx. The LYNXCONNECT project recognizes natural settlements occurring between subpopulations as “stepping stones” and assesses the need for appropriate management interventions. However, it’s important to note that natural settlements may also happen in areas beyond the project’s scope, where monitoring and management efforts are not implemented.
The following census data provides a comprehensive overview of the current population situation of the Iberian lynx. While the majority of the information is derived from the LYNXCONNECT project, additional data collected from areas not covered by the project has also been included.
The map below depicts the subpopulations and natural settlement areas of the Iberian lynx species in 2022. It also provides an approximate representation of the Lorca subpopulation in Murcia, where reintroductions began in 2023. Further details on this subpopulation will be available in next year’s census report.
In relation to the 2021 situation, it is worth noting that the species has expanded its presence to new areas through natural colonization or reintroduction efforts. One such example is the Sierra Arana subpopulation in the province of Granada. Furthermore, an increasing number of lynxes are undertaking dispersal movements from various established areas, covering vast portions of the Peninsula.
- Regarding the map, Doñana-Aljarafe and Andújar-Cardeña are the remnant populations in 2002. (The ones that survived the extinction.)
- Guarrizas and Guadalmellato began in the Life Lince (2006-2011), and today they are fully consolidated (with at least 15 breeding females).
- Matachel, Vale do Guadiana, Campo de Montiel and Mantes de Toledo began in Life Iberlince (2011-2018) and are also consolidated subpopulations.
- Ortiga is an area of natural settlement that, after being evaluated with the corresponding protocol, came to be considered a reintroduction area.
- Valdecañas is also a natural settlement area, and is currently being evaluated to eventually be considered a reintroduction area for the project.
- Las Minas, Setefilla, Ibores, Río Sotillo, Valdecigüeñas, Guazurejos and Cornalvo are areas of natural settlement of the species that, after being evaluated with the corresponding protocol, are considered stepping stones of the project.
- Pegalajar and Alcaudete are also natural settlement areas for the species, and in all probability, in the future they may be considered stepping stones. In fact, once the incipient population of Sierra Arana is consolidated, Pegalajar will serve as a connection area with the Sierra Morena.
- The Andújar-Cardeña, Guarrizas, Guadalmellato and Campo de Montiel subpopulations are considered to function as a metapopulation, Sierra Morena Oriental, since there is fluid genetic exchange between them.
- Guadalmez could also be considered a nucleus of the Sierra Morena Oriental. LYNXCONNECT does not directly monitor this subpopulation, so the information available on this area is not completely comparable to the rest of the information presented in this census.
- Lastly, it is worth mentioning two additional locations, Monfragüe, Extremadura and Albatana, Albacete, which fall outside the scope of the project. In these areas, individuals of the Iberian lynx species, including breeding individuals in the case of Albacete, have been released.
Numbers of Lynx in each region.
The following list shows Region, Country, Reproductive or “territorial” females, young born and total individuals in the area.
- Vale do Guadiana – Portugal – 49 – 86 – 261
- Doñana-Aljarafe – Andalucía – 25 – 27 – 108
- Andújar-Cardeña – Andalucía – 53 – 78 – 268
- Guadalmellato – Andalucía – 14 – 6 – 40 – 239
- Guarrizas Andalucía – 29 – 61 – 167
- Sierra Arana – Andalucía – 0 – 1 – 5
- Setefilla – Andalucía – 1 – 4 – 9
- Las Minas – Andalucía – 3 – 10 – 17
- Guazurejos – Andalucía – 0 – 0 – 1
- Pegalajar Andalucía – 1 – 2 – 6
- Alcaudete – Andalucía – 0 – 0 – 2
- Río Sotillo – Extremadura/Andalucía – 0 – 0 – 3
- Matachel – Extremadura – 30 – 50 – 138
- Ortiga – Extremadura – 3 – 2 – 23
- Valdecigüeñas – Extremadura – 1 – 0 – 8
- Ibores – Extremadura – 1 – 4 – 9
- Cornalvo – Extremadura – 0 – 0 – 3
- Valdecañas – Extremadura – 2 – 5 -14
- Monfragüe – Extremadura – 0 – 0 – 1
- Montes de Toledo – Castilla-La Mancha – 53- 107 – 272
- Guadalmez – Castilla-La Mancha/Andalucía – 23 – 51 – 104
- Albacete – Castilla-La Mancha – 1 – 4 – 6
- Campo de Montiel – Castilla-La Mancha – 37 – 65 – 203
Iberian Península – (Spain and Portugal) 326 Reproductive or “territorial” females – Young born 562 – total individuals 1.668
In 2022, as part of the Lynxconnect project, a total of 40 lynxes were released. These releases took place in reintroduction areas established in previous Life projects, as well as in a selected “stepping stone” areas. The released individuals consisted of both captive-bred lynxes and wild animals that were relocated. Notably, all releases were hard releases, directly reintroducing the lynxes into the wild without prior acclimation in a reintroduction pen.
The distribution of releases is as follows:
- Montes de Toledo: 9 specimens
- Ortiga, Vale do Guadiana, and Sierra Arana: 5 specimens each
- Campo de Montiel and Valdecigüeñas: 3 specimens each
- Guarrizas, Matachel, Río Sotillo, and Las Minas: 2 specimens each
- Guadalmellato and Ibores: 1 specimen each
(I make that a total of 20 releases but the original census states 40: https://lifelynxconnect.eu/censos/ )
The series of reintroductions began in 2010 with the initiation of reintroduction efforts in the Guarrizas subpopulation. It’s worth mentioning that prior to this, two individuals were released in Doñana for genetic reinforcement purposes.
In 2014, the reintroduction program expanded beyond Andalusia to include other regions.
In 2022, a total of 154 Iberian lynx fatalities were recorded.
As discussed in the 2021 census report, the detection probability of individuals dying from various causes can vary significantly. This has resulted in an overestimation of road accidents and an underestimation of poaching, pathologies, and specific causes of mortality. Additionally, the likelihood of detecting a radiolabeled individual is much higher compared to an unlabeled individual. For a more accurate analysis of the causes of mortality, it is advisable to rely solely on data provided by radiolabeled individuals.
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