The male “Sismo” and female “Senegal” were released in a mountainous area between the towns of Farelos and Giões, in Alcoutim, bringing to about 200 the number of animals already released in Portugal.
“It is a very interesting project and it is a good example - on a day when we are at war - of cross-border cooperation between Portugal and Spain, cooperation that was born precisely from this union in the research that has been carried out and which led to a species that was on the verge of extinction to today being a saved species”, stated Paulo Catarino, the Secretary of State for Nature Conservation.
The official stressed that the released animals contribute to “increased biodiversity” and benefit from food and support from hunters and hunting area management entities, which manage the territories where lynx communities meet and provide conditions for them to have their main habitat and food source, the rabbit.
This partnership with hunters, hunting entities and populations in the liberation zones is, according to the Secretary of State, “clear in the results” obtained “in the Alentejo and now in the Algarve as well”.
“The important thing in this reintroduction of the lynx in Portugal is that populations and owners feel that these animals are part of a more complete, more balanced ecosystem, and that is what has been the great success of this reintroduction”, he said, highlighting the population of almost two hundred individuals in Portugal alone and more than a thousand in the Iberian Peninsula.
Expanding into the Algarve
Nuno Banza, president of the Institute for the Conservation of Nature and Forests (ICNF), stressed that the release of these lynxes “extends the area in Portugal for the first time” and gives “a very important sign” that the strategy followed to introduce the animals into freedom is valid.
The same source recalled that the lynx “already occupied the territory” and “lost the ability to survive in this territory”, because survival “is very much based on the food source”, but the expansion of the reintroduction area to the Algarve gives an “ indicator that the habitat has higher quality and greater capacity to support the existence of the species”
“If we manage to form local partnerships with citizens, farmers, hunters, municipalities and inhabitants of this territory where the lynx occurs, we can create conditions for what in the past made the lynx disappear, be poached or see its habitat destroyed, this time it doesn't happen”, he said.
Nuno Banza announced that the objective of the Iberian lynx recovery project is to achieve “ecosystem rebalancing” to “no longer need permanent reintroduction”, with the creation of an “animal community that is sustainable and viable from the genetic point of view”.
“What we are looking for is to have a healthy and sustainable community that can be expanded and that occupies the true function of the lynx, which ends up hunting the most fragile, sickest rabbits, and ends up having a function of ecological regulation of the system”, he concluded.