It had been an ambition of mine to see the World's most endangered cat for some time, The Iberian Lynx has made a comeback from being close to extinction. In 2002 only 94 individuals survived in two isolated in Andalucian subpopulations. Conservation measures have been implemented since then, which included improving habitat, restocking of rabbits, translocating, reintroducing and monitoring Iberian lynxes. By 2012, the population had increased to 326 individuals, to 855 in 2020, and to 1,111 in 2021. A success story.
This success doesn't mean however that they are easy to see. I knew my friend and wildlife guide Mick Richardson had been successful in finding them in the Sierra Morena near Andujar in Jaen Province, so I asked him to show me where and to give me an opportunity to see this magnificent animal., which he duly did. We stayed at La Caracola, a very pleasant Country Guest House close to the Sierra de Andujar Natural Park.
Our expedition to find the Lynx involved a long 4x4 drive up into the Sierra where the chances of finding our target species were greatest. Eventually we came to a few viewpoints from where the landscape can be scanned for the presence of the big cat.
After some time without luck I noticed a small group of people some distance further along the track observing something intensely with binoculars and long lens camaras. I walked along to them and was told they had spotted two Lynx in the dehesa below our position. Shortly afterwards I spotted a pair of tufted ears behind a low bush and realised I was looking at my first Lynx.
Incredibly the two animals were fairly close and they subsequently moved onto a large rock in open view where we all marvelled at their stunning beauty and took photographs as they virtually posed for us. One of the group that I made contact with had a small dog on a lead which the larger, male lynx took an interest in and he left the rock and crept through the wild flowers towards us. It was all quite surreal, these close and prolonged views of such rare and stunning animals was quite an emotional experience, one never to be forgotten. In all we were treated to twenty five minutes of this amazing wildlife experience.
I feel it important to add here that this was an extremely lucky event. Mick had been here on numerous occasions and sometimes missed out completely or only managed fleeting or distant sightings. No-one should expect to get so fortunate as we were that day.
Retired seafarer living in Frigiliana, a white village in Malaga Province in southern Spain. Married to Elena. Keen bird and wildlife watchers.
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