I Meeting of specialists on the European wildcat of the Iberian Peninsula

    The alarming situation of the wildcat in the Iberian Peninsula motivates experts to work together to establish a roadmap that contributes to reversing the "silent extinction" of the species in most of Iberia

    The recent Red List Evaluation for the European wildcat (Happy New Year) promoted by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) shows a alarming scenario for this small cat in the Iberian Peninsula, evidencing a great fragmentation of its populations in Spain and Portugal, but showing serious gaps in knowledge, particularly regarding its abundance and trends.

    Moved by this situation, scientists from the Research Group in Game Resources and Wildlife Management of the Instituto de Investigación en Recursos Cinegéticos (IREC – CSIC, UCLM, JCCM), from the Rey Juan Carlos University, the University of Granada and the CIBIO/InBIO of Portugal, organized a technical meeting on January 18, 2022 that brought together more than 30 specialists in this small feline from Spain and Portugal with the main objective of compile updated information on the situation of the species and establish a roadmap to help reverse this situation.


    Some previous works, which analyze the survival and causes of mortality of the wildcat, already warn of the "silent extinction" of this felid in Europe (Photo: François Mougeot).

    The different groups that work with the European wildcat shared for the first time in a productive and enriching environment the information available for different regions of Spain and Portugal, reaching the following conclusions:

    • There are two different and contrasting situations of the species in the Iberian Peninsula: 1) in the North-Northeast, where the species is apparently well distributed and with relatively high densities, and 2) in the South and Central Iberia with low occupancy, fragmentation extreme and low density.
    • Urgent actions are required to clarify the causes of this widespread decline and design the necessary conservation measures, particularly for populations in the center and south of the peninsula. The priority actions would be: (i) collect all available information on status and trends, (ii) agree on standardized and unified monitoring methods that allow periodic assessments of populations, (iii) assess the possibility of a regional assessment of conservation status , and (iv) make the public and administrations aware of the pre-extinction scenario that the species is facing in most of Iberia.

    After the meeting it was proposed to follow the following steps:

    1. Establish working groups to define agreed protocols for population, health, genetic and governance monitoring.
    2. Request the advice of the IUCN Feline Specialist Group on the possibility, relevance and requirements to carry out a sub-regional evaluation of the Iberian wildcat metapopulation.
    3. Start an awareness campaign aimed at the public and those responsible for the administrations on the situation of the species.

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