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The pair of iberian lynxes in Selwo Aventura

ANOTHER STEP IN THEIR RECOVERY

Selwo Aventura has taken on Javo and Judía, a pair of Iberian lynxes (Lynx pardinus) ceded by the Environment and Land Management Department of the Andalusia Regional Government. This new addition converts the Park into the only private zoo center in Spain which hosts this native species at very severe risk of extinction. The arrival of the two animals took place on 5 June 2015, World Environment Day.

The purposes of the presence of Iberian lynxes at Selwo Aventura are to contribute to their protection and conservation, to make visitors aware of their situation and the problems of the world's most threatened cat species and, of course, for people to have a chance to observe this jewel of our natural heritage first-hand.

And, from July the 1st 2015, Selwo Aventura will incorporate Conservation of the Iberian Lynx into its programme “Meet the Keepers”. This is a complete educational talk suitable for all ages, to recount the gripping story of this Spanish feline, whose status has just been changed from “critically endangered” to “endangered”.

The Conservation of the Iberian Lynx talk will be given at the Iberian Lynx Territory. Apart from the animal's story, the talk offers a description of its most unusual features, its current situation and the details of how it has adapted to its new habitat at Selwo Aventura.

Javo and Judía were both born in March 2012 at the "La Olivilla" Iberian Lynx Breeding Center in Santa Elena (Jaén). Neither specimen can be reintroduced into the natural environment, nor contribute genetically to the captive breeding program, as they are not suitable for reproduction. The male was part of a litter destined for reintroduction into the wild, but prior veterinary examination made his release there inadvisable. For her part, Judía suffered a medical problem when she was merely a kitten, which has made her release impossible.

The pair of felines arrived at what will be their new home from now on, the Land of the Lynx (Territorio del Lince), situated in the Canyon of Birds (Cañón de las Aves), a landscape in a natural setting. The release of Javo took place on 5 June 2015, shortly after his arrival at Selwo Aventura. The young lynx took to his new surroundings with no sign of wariness or timidity, quickly getting to know his new territory, which is a forest at different levels and with abundant Mediterranean vegetation such as trees, bushes and scrub... Judía passed the first hours of her stay at Selwo Aventura in her shelter, and was released into her grassland on 6 June 2015.  Her territory, adjoining that of the male, is also a sizable natural landscape populated with vegetation typical of their Andalusian home.

The Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) is a species endemic to the Iberian Peninsula and is considered to be the most threatened feline in the world. In the nineteenth century it was distributed throughout the Iberian Peninsula, but by a hundred years later, and especially in the second half of the twentieth century, the population had plummeted, with estimated reduction of over 90% between the years 1960 and 2000. The causes of this decline were varied, but the most important are persecution, whether direct (trapping for fur, hunting trophies, etc..) or indirect (trapping drives to capture rabbits, carnivore control drives, etc..), fragmentation and loss of habitat (rise in transport infrastructure and traffic upon the same), forest management, changes in land use (rise in agricultural land), and especially the fall in the population of its prey species, the rabbit, due to two epizootics: myxomatosis, which was detected for the first time in the 1950s, and viral hemorrhagic disease (VHD), first detected in the 1980s.
 
In 2001, the Andalusia Regional Government embarked upon a decisive program to study the status of the lynx populations present in Andalusia. In 2002, following a national census, the conclusion reached was that only two populations remained: the Sierras de Andújar and Cardeña (in the eastern Sierra Morena), and Doñana and its surroundings, both in Andalusia, and with fewer than 100 animals in total. At that moment, the LIFE projects for the conservation of this feline began, based upon:
 
a) Improving the carrying capacity of the natural environment by raising the population of the prey species of the lynx.
b) The reduction in mortality.
c) The creation of new population nuclei.
d) The recuperation of the genetic variability lost during the previous century in Doñana.
e) The final LIFE objective, to restore the historic distribution of the Iberian lynx in the Iberian Peninsula by means of a project in which not only Andalusia, but also Portugal, Extremadura, Castilla-La Mancha and Murcia participate.
 
Between 2002 and 2014 a rise in the population from 94 to 323 has been achieved, among the populations of Doñana-Aljarafe (Huelva-Sevilla), Sierras of Andújar and Cardeña (Jaén-Córdoba), Guadalmellato (Córdoba) and Guarrizas (Jaén).