An Iberian lynx has travelled around 1,000 kilometres from southern Portugal to Catalonia, making it the first of its species to be spotted in the region since the beginning of the 20th century.
The four-year-old male lynx, named Lítio, was bred and released into the wild under an ambitious project to save the endangered wild cat species, which is native to the Iberian Peninsula in southwestern Europe.
He was last seen in southern Portugal in 2016, before being spotted this week in the metropolitan area of Barcelona, according a joint statement by groups involved in the species’ conservation.
The sighting makes Lítio the fifth lynx since 2010 known to have travelled between Portugal and Spain and the first to be located in Catalonia in more than 100 years.
It is believed he travelled around 1,000 kilometres between the two countries and across several regions in Spain.
Conservation officials say the large distance travelled by lynx like Lítio could “play an important role” in the future of the species, suggesting there is a vast space for them to breed and live in.
They now plan to recapture Lítio to recover his tracking collar, which after two years has no functional battery but should provide details of the route he took to Barcelona.
The Iberian lynx is classified as 'Endangered' on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, which assesses the conservation status of threatened species.
By 2002, the number of wild Iberian lynx had dropped to less than 100, but conservation efforts have seen numbers grow, with almost 600 recorded to be living in parts of Spain and Portugal in a 2017 census.