Reintroduction is understood as the release of animal or plant species within an area where they had already existed prior to their disappearance due to human activity or natural catastrophe. Reintroduction is undoubtedly one of the key pieces in the group of actions of the lynx conservation project. This is the first time that Iberian lynx will be released into the wild, which presents an unprecedented challenge, but at the same time a huge responsibility for the project.
Reintroduction in the Spanish Strategy for the conservation of the Iberian lynx
Point 7.5 in the National Strategy refers to the increase in the number of the lynx population, and the objective set out is to achieve the presence of at least a viable breeding population in every autonomous region included in the Strategy document. This is four-stage plan. First is the “localisation and selection of the areas” which must be done, according to IUCN criteria, within the area that the species occupied in the 1980s about which there is very precise information. The second phase is the “adaptation of the reintroduction areas”, which consists of a series of measures to ensure that the chosen location is fit for purpose and viable in the long term. The third stage included in the strategy is the “selection and preparation of the lynx”, whereby studies are carried out to determine the origin, genetic aspects and the most suitable social structure for the founding of new breeding populations. Ideally, specimens for the programme should be taken from the wild, as far as this is possible in the donor populations. The final phase of the strategy is the execution of the reintroduction projects, setting as an objective for 2012 the inclusion of all the autonomous regions mentioned in the National Strategy document, with each region having in place a reintroduction programme with political backing and adequate evaluation at each stage of execution.
Background of the reintroduction of the Iberian lynx
According to the conclusions of the II International Seminar of the Iberian lynx (held in 2004 in Cordoba), it is necessary to increase the number of lynx populations to ensure their long-term survival. Epidemics, fires and any casualty, accident can end the current populations, therefore, seeks to provide more chances for survival of this species in its natural environment.
The first stage designated in the Spanish strategy, referring to localisation and selection of areas for reintroduction, has been based on the work “ Análisis de los hábitat adecuados para el lince ibérico en Andalucía”, (Analysis of adequate habitats for the Iberian lynx in Andalusia) developed within the framework of the LIFE-Lince project. In this work, three areas in Sierra Morena were selected by a multi-criteria analysis as being most suitable to host an Iberian lynx reintroduction project. Habitat, availability of resources, protection level and the historic distribution of the species in the 1990s, were all taken into account. The resulting selection of zones was: the southern sector of Sierra de Hornachuelos, the surroundings of the river Guadalmellato and Guarrizas Valley.
Map showing the priorization of the potential Iberian lynx reintroduction areas, derived from the analysis developed by the LIFE-lince project
Pre-selected areas for reintroduction (in red) according to the multi-criteria analysis performed in 2006