Cubs born in Iberian lynx breeding centre in Portugal

Work to save the Critically Endangered Iberian lynx is showing results, with the birth of several litters of lynx cubs heralding the start of a successful season at Portugal’s breeding centre.

The breeding centre, set up by the Instituto da Conservação da Natureza e da Biodiversidade (ICNB) forms an important part of a larger Iberian lynx conservation effort, also involving Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and on ground partner Liga para a Protecção da Natureza (LPN). The captive breeding programme works in conjunction with similar sites in Spain, to boost lynx numbers while maintaining the genetic diversity of the species.

According to ICNB, “The breeding season started last December when the females started to go on heat. Mating was planned according to genetic criteria and respecting the observed behavioral interactions among the animals.”

The first success came on 5 March, when Biznaga gave birth to three cubs. One of nine females at the centre, Biznaga had never successfully reproduced before. Two of the cubs were abandoned an hour after birth and have been transferred to an incubator. Unfortunately, the third cub died 48 hours after birth.

Another female, the six year-old Castañuela, gave birth to four cubs on 6 March. The centre team says, “This female shows great dedication and has exhibited parental caring behaviours towards all of her offspring. The cubs’ development appears to be normal and stable.”

Although giving birth to such large litters is rare – this has happened only once previously within the ex-situ program – three other young females have also produced litters of four cubs during March.

Presently, 17 cubs are well and thriving – two of them with human assistance – and already weigh nearly a kilogram (two pounds).

All lynx in the centre are monitored by video surveillance 24 hours a day, ensuring the well-being of the animals, and helping scientists get a better understanding of the breeding behaviour of lynx in captivity.

The breeding season runs until the end of April, with more births expected soon.

The group effort of FFI, ICNB, LPN and many other partners sees the implementation of a multi faceted approach to conserving the Iberian lynx. Each component addresses a vital aspect, with the resulting programme being an extensive, supported approach to ensuring the survival of the species. Coordinated efforts of captive breeding and recovery of lynx habitat work to guarantee the still uncertain future of the species.

Read the original news story (in Portuguese).