Conservationists in Spain will use drones to help save the endangered Iberian lynx after a technology consortium came to an agreement with regional officials.
The beautiful animals, whose numbers have recovered to 327 in the wild from the critical level of 94 at the start of the century, have benefitted from a captive breeding scheme.
However, they often travel large distances after being released, exposing them to greater risks, particularly from traffic. Last year 21 were killed on Spanish roads.
José Fiscal, Andalucia’s environment chief, said on Monday that using the best technology available had already helped the animal’s recovery, but more had to be done.
The current system involves a radio operator tuning in to the collars worn by released lynxes.
Now, a deal has been signed between a technology consortium and the Andalucian regional government to design an aerial tracking system.
The €20,000 (£15,000) agreement with tech companies Enel Green Power and Microsensory will see the development of a prototype specifically designed to follow lynxes fitted with radio markers
“These collars have provided valuable information on the territory and routes used by individual felines, but the tracking was dependent on the terrain and required daily monitoring by an operator,” Mr Fiscal said.
Lynxes have been released in five different places deemed sufficiently remote and where rabbit breeding programmes have been set up in Spain and neighbouring Portugal this year
In March, however, the World Wildlife Fund reported that a young male called Kentaro had roamed over 60 miles from the place where he was released in Toledo province, tracked at one point to just 30 miles from central Madrid having crossed several motorways.
While in October a lynx named Hongo, who had been saved from drowning in an irrigation pond when still a cub, was found dead on a road in Portugal, 150 miles from where he was nursed to health and released back into the wild in Andalucia’s Doñana national park.
Scientists recently confirmed that several lynxes had made their home in the Guadarrama mountains near Spain’s capital.