The Iberian lynx is the most endangered wild cat species in the world. In 2002, when the project activities began, only 100 lynxes remained in the wild, in two isolated populations mainly located in privately-owned territory. The Government of Andalusia managed several projects supported by the EU LIFE fund to curb the species' rate of extinction and begin its recovery.
The main actions developed to achieve this aim were captive breeding and reintroduction of specimens into the wild, together with habitat improvements included in cooperation agreements between public and private entities and actions in support of its main prey, rabbits. All these actions have been vital in reversing the negative trends of the lynx population and paving the way for its recovery.
The design and execution of these initiatives relied on the close collaboration of all relevant public and private stakeholders. The participation of the landowners and managers of private hunting estates was particularly essential for the success of these activities. Stewardship agreements and voluntary contracts have been signed with 132 private owners, managers and hunting clubs in six Natura 2000 sites, reducing hunting pressure on rabbits and securing lynx-friendly land management across more than 95 000 hectares.
These conservation initiatives, implemented in territories included in the Natura 2000 network in Spain, have led to a major recovery among the Iberian lynx population (from 52 mature individuals in 2002 to 327 in 2014), enabling the IUCN to lower its threat category from ‘critically endangered’ to ‘endangered’. In addition, the collaborative work established through the project will ensure that this important work for Natura 2000 continues in the future.