How Spain saved the lynx
If Scotland needs a lesson on how to save an endangered feline, it need only look to the little town of Santa Elena, in Andalucía, Spain. Biologists there have overseen a remarkable conservation enterprise: the Olivilla captive breeding centre for the Iberian lynx. Dozens of these distinctive, beautiful creatures have been bred here, watched over by staff working in a control room that has enough television monitors to do justice to a particle accelerator. This is cat care at its most sophisticated.
Adult lynxes, which are about a metre long and weigh around 10kg – twice the size of a wildcat – have been reintroduced to the surrounding hills. Ten years ago, there were fewer than 100 Iberian lynxes left on the planet. Habitat destruction, loss of prey and indiscriminate trapping by landowners was propelling Lynx pardinus towards extinction. Today there are at least 300 of them, and their numbers continue to rise. Call it the Lynx effect.
The implication is clear. Endangered felines can be saved – although we should be under no illusions about the cost involved. As lynx conservationists explained during my visit to Santa Elena, around £30m was spent setting up the project, money raised mostly by the Andalucían regional government, and which funds captive breeding and also pays for teams of energetic young conservationists to trap and release animals in areas around the town.
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