Easter day brood offers hope for lynx in Portugal

Tue Apr 6, 2010 11:56am EDT
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By Andrei Khalip

LISBON (Reuters Life!) - Two furry Iberian lynx kittens were born on Easter Sunday in Portugal, raising hopes of a resurrection of the species in the country, where it has been extinct for about a decade.

The Iberian lynx is one of the world's most endangered cats. They measure about 1 meter in length, have distinctive leopard-like spots and four sets of whiskers -- two on the ears and two on the chin.

"This is the first time Iberian lynx are born in captivity here. It's a happy coincidence that the two animals were born on Easter," Environment Minister Dulce Alvaro Passaro told Reuters on Tuesday.

"It's very important because the species had ceased to exist in Portugal years ago. It is another step toward the planned reintroduction of the Iberian lynx in their natural habitat."

The lynx were born in the National Center for Iberian Lynx Reproduction in southern Portugal, which only opened last May, from a couple brought from Spain, where the lynx still roam in the wild and are also bred in three reproduction centers.

The mother, 5-year-old Azahar, had previously failed to conceive and scientists from the center were relieved with the healthy pregnancy and delivery.

"The two creatures are strong and quite active. The female Azahar shows all the adequate maternal instincts, being around the kittens permanently and giving them all the maternal care with dedication and calm," the ministry, which oversees the project, said in a note.

The center, which cost around 2 million euros, was built by water utility Aguas do Algarve as a compensation for installing a dam in the southern Algarve region. It works in close cooperation with the centers in Spain.   Continued...

<p>File image shows two Iberian lynxs looking out from their enclosure at a nature reserve in Cabarceno near Santander in northern Spain February 28, 2006. REUTERS/Victor Fraile</p>