Searching for the world’s most endangered cat – the Iberian lynx.
We love our hillfarm but when we do explore further afield it often involves cats!
This stunning cat is so rare we are unlikely to catch a glimpse but we did our best anyway!
The Iberian lynx was considered probably extinct in Portugal until the first reintroductions in Autumn 2014. This incredibly rare cousin of the North American bobcat consists of less than 500 individuals, amazingly this is a fivefold increase from it’s lowest point in 2005 and this only after a concerted conservation effort and captive breeding programme have pulled it back from the brink. It has been downgraded recently from critically endangered to endangered, a good downgrade, but it’s not out of danger yet.
The population currently here in Portugal is still being replenished, with more reintroductions each year from the captive bred populations in Spain and Portugal and won’t be considered ‘viable’ until there are at least 30 breeding females.
It’s stunning, it’s a cat and it’s on our doorstep.
Even more exciting for us, the site of the release and reintroductions are not far from us in the council region of Mertola in southeast Portugal, the lynx are released within private hunting estates with an abundance of their favourite prey, rabbits and are within the region of the stunning Guadiana Natural Park, which takes its name from the river which borders Spain and runs to the ocean in the Algarve. The only real evidence of Iberian lynx here are the warning signs on the roadside.
But there are other places in Portugal where you can see them, including Lisbon zoo which has two Iberian lynxes, Gamma and Azahar, which are unable to breed in captivity and would not survive in the wild due to health issues. We got there early and were very lucky to see them being released from their sleeping pen into the wider enclosure, which they explored, before settling down on their platforms to look down on the viewing public and snooze.
And now thanks to a recent installation, you can catch a glimpse of a cub – if you are very lucky – from the viewing platform in the Algarve where a new visitor centre has a powerful telescope, which allows visitors a tantalising view of the outside enclosures of this rare beast in the captive breeding centre there.