Saturday, September 23, 2006

WWF calls for road-building moratorium in Spain to protect endangered lynx

22 Sep 2006

Huelva, Spain – An Iberian lynx has been killed on a road in Doñana National Park in southern Spain, making this the fifth such fatality of the critically endanagered wild cat this year.

WWF, the global conservation organization, is calling for a moratorium on road building in Iberian lynx habitat in Doñana, and is demanding once again for the creation of an emergency plan to avoid the extinction of one of the world’s two remaining populations of the species.

“When will the Spanish government wake up?" said Luis Suarez, Head of species conservation at WWF-Spain. "We are seeing this cat being wiped out before our eyes due to the authorities' inability to protect them.”

Since 2000, 20 Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) have been killed on roads, the most frequent cause of death for this wild cat, together with illegal hunting. From 1982–89, vehicles were responsible for 19.2 per cent of lynx deaths in the area, but from 1990–99 this rose to 41.7 per cent, and since 2000 has risen to 62.5 per cent. This high mortality rate, threatening the survival of the lynx in Spain, is caused because lynx are found outside of protected areas, where they are exposed to many different risks. This in turn is due to lack of planning within the territory.

WWF is urging the government of Andalucia to implement a long-term plan for the region’s roads, and halt uncontrolled construction within the area. Measures would include reduced traffic speeds, a reduced number of vehicles in the area, and blocking certain roads.

In particular, WWF is concerned with an illegal road that passes through Doñana Natural Park between Villamanrique de la Condesa and El Rocio. This road cuts through the breeding territory of the Iberian lynx and carries traffic travelling at up to 120km/h. It was built when the Andalusian Council of Agriculture tarred an old forest track from Villamanrique to El Rocio in June 2001. It was built without an environmental impact assessment and without notifying the European Commission. Traffic on the road is increasing, mainly because residents from the city of Seville use it to avoid jams on main roads as they travel to the beaches of Matalascañas and Mazagón.

WWF believes roads are having a devastating effect on the area’s dwindling Iberian lynx population. Until recently, 20–25 lynx were believed to survive in Doñana. It is believed that there are only 100 adult lynx in the wild.

“Time is running out,” stressed Suárez. “We will soon lose the opportunity to save this population.”

For further information:
Luis Suarez, Head, Species Programme
Tel: + 34 91 354 05 78

Joanna Benn, Communications Manager
WWF Global Species Programme
Tel: +34 8 726 7313

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