Thursday, June 14, 2012

Iberian Lynx Protection Extends Beyond Andalusia

Fontana, a three-year-old female Iberian lynx spotted across the border in Castilla-La Mancha.

The Iberian lynx is one of the most fascinating, yet highly endangered of wildcats found nowhere else but in small pockets of the peninsula of the same name. Although much of its range is limited to Andalusia, it has been recently reported that the population of this lynx has spread beyond that area towards Castilla-La Mancha, Castilla y Leon, Extremadura, and even far away as Madrid. While this appears to be good news for the species, it has been said that proper monitoring systems are essential to ensure the cats are safe away from Andalusia where they had been historically confined following years of poaching, habitat loss, road casualties, and poisoning. Some possible protective tactics include regulating the use of herbicides, putting a stop to rabbit-hunting, and making sure that new infrastructure does not destroy the lynxs' habitat. One natural history expert named Ramon Grande Del Brio, whose research found four or five lynx populations in Salamanca. A recent lynx sighting occurred in April this year when a three-year-old female named Fontana was sighted 150 kilometers away in Ciudad Real, over the border in Castilla-La Mancha after coming near a log covered with lynx urine; a technique used by specialists to attract the animal. Born in the Andujar-Cardena mountain range in 2009, she had not been photographed since 2010. A study by a natural history scholar named Luis Garzon has also found lynxes in Castilla y Leon and Extremadura, where the population is estimated to be up to fifty individuals. As part of his study, Garzon interviewed farmers and shepherds, collected feces, looked for lynx tracks, and listened to the cats during their breeding season between December and February. An excrement found in 2006 in Madrid confirmed that it belonged to a lynx.

I'm also very happy to see that the Iberian lynx population has been expanding over the years, and has dispersed beyond Andalusia and into areas where they had historically disappeared. However, I also feel that it is crucial to conduct monitoring systems to guarantee that these cats are safe. Currently, there is no such system in Madrid due to lack of proof that lynxes are living in the area despite the tracks being spotted in the surrounding mountains of the city. In addition to that, it is also said that the feces are known to deteriorate quickly which makes it hard to conduct an analysis as to whether they belonged to a lynx or some other animal. I think in order to carry out a successful monitoring system, there should be community involvement where local people can be educated about the Iberian lynx and help by taking pictures of any strange creature that looks like a cat and presenting them to the authorities. In addition to that, it is also crucial to conduct protective measurements such as stopping hunting, controlling the use of poisons, and preventing any further habitat loss to ensure the lynxs' survival. This way, the conservation of the Iberian lynx will further improvise in an effort to save this mysterious cat.

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