The Iberian Lynx
Mountain range of Andujar Natural Park
The largest number of population the nail cat
Although the Iberian lynx is a protected species since 1966, this wonderful feline is in danger of extinction. At present, only two populations are viable and consolidated for the development and proliferation of this species: Doñana and the one existing in the natural spaces of the Sierra de Cardeña and Montoro Natural Park and the Sierra de Andújar Natural Park, being this last one where we find the largest population center of the nail cat.
Around the world there are just over three hundred Iberian lynx numbers. Many of them live in the Mediterranean mountains of the Sierra de Andújar Natural Park. In the past, this exceptional feline, endemic to Spain and Portugal, was distributed throughout the peninsula, but its populations have been decreasing over time drastically. At present, the Iberian lynx - Lynx pardinus - is a species considered "critically endangered".
The gentle scrub and holm oak forests of the Sierra de Andújar have become one of the last refuges of this extraordinary animal species which is difficult to observe in the middle of nature. The Iberian lynx has the appearance of a large cat with spotted skin, a very short tail and pointed ears that end in a characteristic tuft of hair like a brush. It inhabits the quietest places in the park, and at dawn, after having made a stealthy night tour in search of hunting, usually receives the first rays of the sun lying on the warm granite stones. Rabbits are their main source of food. To a large extent, it depends on the health of these mammal populations to survive. The care of its natural habitat and the tranquility to breed and raise its puppies are other of the imperative needs of the Iberian lynx. On the roads of the Natural Park there are signs that warn of their presence and that ask the visitor to maintain the calm of the place and to take extreme precautions in driving to avoid outrages.
The main decline causes of the Iberian lynx in the past have been declining rabbit populations, habitat destruction, and unnatural mortality. The collapse of the rabbit populations on the one side and the destruction of the habitat on the other, have caused a great decrease of the carrying capacity of the environment in most of the historical range of the Iberian lynx. So that in an area where there were previously conditions for ten lynx to live, now at most one could. In addition, an increase of diseases on the population has been detected.
EU aid programs for the conservation of the lynx
The LIFE program is a financial instrument created by the European Union in 1992 to conserve and protect the environment. The projects co-finance three different areas: Nature, Environment and Third Countries.
The main objective of the LIFE nature, where the LIFE Lince project is situated, is to contribute to the conservation of nature to maintain and improve the natural habitats and/or the animal and plant species of the designated areas that are included to the Natura 2000 Network.
With the LIFE lynx project a series of actions have been carried out aimed at minimizing threats and reducing limiting factors in the conservation of the Iberian lynx. The ultimate goal is to reduce the risk of extinction for the species by increasing both the population size and the number of populations. In this way, the actions that are developed in the project are the following:
Increase in population size
Actions aimed at increasing the carrying capacity.
Recovery of the rabbit with restocking.
Actions aimed at reducing mortality.
Reduction of the rate of accidents.
Poaching rate reduction.
Reduction of the impact of diseases.
Increased genetic variability.
Increase of the number of populations
Creation of new nuclei: reintroduction. In the reintroduction areas, all the actions aimed at increasing the population size described above are also carried out.
In order to carry out an adequate implementation and evaluation of the above actions, it is necessary to carry out a routine monitoring of the Iberian lynx and rabbit populations.
Subsequently, the LIFE + program was developed, which was the financial instrument of the European Union dedicated to the environment for the period between January 1, 2007 and December 31, 2013. It has provided specific support to develop and implement Community Policy and Legislation on the environment.
To see a lynx in Andújar
To locate and observe an Iberian lynx we must look for a good observatory from which we can see the whole mountain range, many slopes, rocks, scrub and above all, many clearings of grassland. Among the best areas to do a day of observation are:
Last section of the Camino de la Lancha.
Path and recreational area of Encinarejo.
The north shore of the Encinarejo Reservoir.
All the viewpoints in the southern part of the park.
Zone of the Sendero del Jabalí.
Recreational area of the Straight (Recta) Trail in Lugar Nuevo.
Staying in the observatory, it is essential to be very attentive and silence, so, even with the naked eye, we can distinguish a lynx moving if it is not too far away. We will also begin a sweep of the area using binoculars. With them we will go looking at the clearings and the projections of the land; thus, we can discover a cat perched on a rock. We must leave the telescope for the last search, to look further and search very slowly or even to look at the animal once we have discovered it.
As with almost all predators, corvids are also very aggressive with the Iberian lynx (perhaps this is the animal with which they most fuss), so we have to be very aware of the movements and claims of the magpies. 50% of the success of observing a lynx can come from knowing how to interpret corvids.
For the good of the species and of future visitors looking to see the big cat, we must respect all the rules of public use, be respectful of the environment, always keep silent and not disturb the animals in any way. Nor should we enter privately owned farms without authorization or deviate from established trails.