Lynx/Malcata - Recovery of habitats and preys of the Lynx pardinus in Serra da Malcata

LIFE99 NAT/P/006423

Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version  

Contact details:

Tel: 351/277/394467
Fax: 351/277/394580
Email: rnsm.Sarmentop@icn.pt

Project description:


The Spanish Lynx (Lynx pardinus) is currently considered Europe's most threatened carnivore and the world's most threatened feline. Endemic to the Iberian Peninsula, the species is listed in Annex II to Council Directive 92/43/EEC, the Berne Convention and the Spanish and Portuguese national red data lists of vertebrates. Historical data show that in the mid-nineteenth century the Spanish lynx was found throughout the Iberian Peninsula. In 1960 it was confined to the southwest corner of the Peninsula. In 1980 Portugal's Spanish lynx population was put at around 50 individuals. This population is now thought to live in small, sparsely spread pockets and possibly faces problems of population viability. The Malcata mountain range is one of such pockets, which extends across the border. The destruction of the lynx's preferred habitat, Mediterranean woodland, the increasing scarcity of its main prey, wild rabbit, and poaching have contributed to the decline in the lynx population over the last few decades.


The overall objective of this project was to help strengthen the Spanish lynx population in the Malcata Mountains. More specifically, the project aimed to: (1) improve the quality of the Lynx habitat, (2) increase the population of the lynx prey, (3) reduce unnatural mortality causes, (4) increase public awareness, and (5) increase the knowledge on the ecology of the lynx, its prey and main competitors. In doing so, the area under Mediterranean woodland and the wild rabbit's feeding areas were expanded through various habitat management measures. Repopulating took place and the epidemics affecting the prey species were monitored. At the same time, action was taken to curb poaching and make the inhabitants in the region more sensitive to the importance of conserving the Spanish lynx.


Both the quality of the lynx habitat and the population of the species’ major prey, the rabbit, improved significantly in the central area of the pSCI. The key project achievements were:

  • In those areas subject to habitat management measures rabbit density increased from 2.53 in/ha in 1999 to 5.13 in/ha in 2003, the estimated lynx carrying capacity having also increased. Nonetheless, the average density of rabbit is still low and insufficient to support a viable lynx population when taking into account the whole pSCI area.
  • A significant decrease in poaching along the four years of the project occurred, mainly inside the core of the pSCI, as a result of the intensification of surveillance during the project, although this illegal activity is still present and this measure should be endeavoured in the long run. Deep changes in the general attitude of this population sector are difficult to achieve within one generation, and poaching can only be kept under controllable limits through the intensification of surveillance measures, which is what the project did.
  • The increased knowledge on the ecology of the lynx, its prey and main competitors gained through the project was crucial for the development of a Lynx Action Plan by the National Authority (ICN), who financed it with alternative sources since it was not foreseen in the project.
  • The only shortcomings are to be reported under public awareness, after internal problems hindered the foreseen actions. The amount of awareness materials produced, including a newsletter for hunters for which the number of issues was drastically reduced, was significantly lower than foreseen. Other activities, like an exhibition, were completed very close to the end of the project. All in all, the project’s contribution to the establishment of the Natura 2000 network is remarkable. The significant positive effect on the recovery of the central pSCI Malcata habitats for the Iberian lynx and its main prey species, the rabbit, can influence the success of an eventual lynx reintroduction programme, but also the survival of other threatened species such as Bubo bubo (Eagle Owl), Felis silvestris (Wildcat) and Aquila chrysaetos (Golden Eagle). LIFE was the first conservation project with continuous and significant conservation actions in this pSCI acting on a wide geographical range and temporal scale. Several actions essayed during the project were incorporated into the Action Plan for the species developed by the beneficiary and are now being applied also in other parts of the country, with the aim of preventing the species’ extinction in this range. The plan is divided into two main action guidelines: in situ conservation (habitat improvement, species protection and rabbit population recovery) and ex situ conservation (captive breeding and genome resource bank). Conservation actions and management tools based on the most recent information available from research throughout the species range are proposed in the plan, which includes a significant amount of information obtained within the LIFE project, in particular with regard to habitat modelling and conservation. Job creation was another remarkable project feature; the two positions for biologists created for the four years of implementation were maintained for at least two additional years. In effect, the main conservation actions of the LIFE project need recurring work, which will continue through the application of a new project financed by POA (Plano Operacional do Ambiente). According to the beneficiary, for a long-term reintroduction of the species to be feasible, it would be necessary to go on with these conservation efforts.


Environmental issues addressed:


Species - Mammals


endangered species‚  protected area‚  conservation of genetic resources‚  introduction of animal species‚  restoration measure

Target EU Legislation

  • Nature protection and Biodiversity
  • Directive 92/43 - Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora- Habitats Directiv ...

Target species

 Lynx pardinus     

Target Habitat types

  • 9230 - Galicio-Portuguese oak woods with Quercus robur and Quercus pyrenaica
  • 9340 - Quercus ilex and Quercus rotundifolia forests
  • 4030 - European dry heaths

Natura 2000 sites

SCI PTCON0004 Malcata



Coordinator Reserva Natural da Serra da Malcata - ICN
Type of organisation National authority
Description The Beneficiary is a local branch of the national authority "Instituto da Conservação da Natureza", which in turn is the part of the Ministry of the Environment responsible for nature conservation.


Project reference LIFE99 NAT/P/006423
Duration 01-OCT-1999 to 30-SEP -2003
Total budget 538,913.49 €
EU contribution 404,185.12 €
Project location Centro(Portugal)


Read more:

Project web site Project Web page


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version