Just five years ago, the Iberian lynx was classified as critically endangered on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List (IUCN), but now the population in southern Spain has nearly tripled thanks to a particularly well-designed conservation program. Funded by the Andalusian government and the European Union, the program brought together hunters, farmers and the tourism industry to revive this magnificent wild cat.

Southern Spain, Andalusia, wildlife conservation, Iberian lynx, European Union, Donana National Park, Sierra Morena, wildcat, environment, newsImage via Shutterstock

“We can’t claim victory yet but now there is hope,” Miguel Ángel Simón, the director of the program, told The Guardian. In the first phase of the project, researchers bred the lynx in captivity in case its population in the wild completely disappeared. There are now 312 Iberian lynxes in Sierra Morena and the Doñana national park, and Brussels will now fund 40 percent of a €26m push to spread their numbers in neighboring regions as well.

After successfully bringing the wildcat back from the brink of extinction and diversifying the gene pool by releasing Sierra Morena cats into Doñana national park, the next step is to revive the species in Extremadura, Castile-La Mancha and Murcia, and Portugal. This phase of the project is set to begin in May, 2014. Now if we could just get this model to work for rhinos and elephants in Africa.

Via The Guardian