There are three lynxes to visit in the villages of Giões, Pereiro and Furnazinhas

The species' reintroduction and conservation project also includes initiatives designed to attract the local population to the cause

The Giões lynx, with the artists who shaped it – Photo: Elisabete Rodrigues | Sul Informação

At the entrance to Giões, there is now an Iberian lynx. But it's not just any animal: this is the fruit of the imagination and joint work of the artist Tó Quintas and the village community. It joins two others, identical in origin but different in implementation, which can be seen in the villages of Furnazinhas and Pereiro.

On Tuesday, October 17th, these three lynxes were opened, at the same time as the presentation of the results of the Aldeias de Lince initiative, integrated into the project LIFE Lynxconnect, which brings together entities from Spain and Portugal and has coordinated the successful reintroduction of the Iberian lynx into the wild, especially in the Guadiana valley and surrounding areas.

The three villages in the municipalities of Alcoutim (Gião and Pereiro) and Castro Marim (Furnazinhas) are located precisely in the expansion zone, towards the Algarve, of the Iberian lynx reintroduction area.

Involving these three communities, the project has been taking place since the beginning of the year, which, in addition to giving birth to the three community art interventions, also led to the creation of a route to the «Aldeias do Lince», which can now be followed to discover the artistic installations, but also the heritage, gastronomy and experiences of each of the locations.

In both cases, the Aldeias do Lince project was developed by the company Proactivetur, which, as it is dedicated to ecotourism, knows the territory well and is used to working with the people who still live there.

João Minister, director of proactivetur, explained that experience with other projects, such as TASA, shows that «reactivating and valuing cultural heritage is important in economic terms, but also in terms of nature conservation».

«We believe that there are opportunities here that can be taken advantage of by these territories», he stressed.


Group photo, next to the Furnazinhas lynx



The objective has been to involve the community, from school children to the many elderly people in the villages, in this project that aims to attract inhabitants to the cause of conserving the Iberian lynx and its habitat.

Or, as the guide created for the Aldeias do Lince itinerary explains, «either to maintain the already established lynx population or to guarantee the best conditions for the process of reintroducing new lynxes, it is essential to ensure the social acceptance of the lynx within the population, in order to minimize conflicts and the risk of mortality” of these animals.

An aspect that, still in Alcoutim, in the session presenting the project results, was highlighted both by the vice-president of the local Chamber, and by the president of the Institute for Nature Conservation and Forests (ICNF), the entity that coordinates, in Portugal, the Iberian lynx recovery program and its reintroduction into the wild.

Mayor Paulo Paulino highlighted “the involvement of the people, who gave their suggestions for the locations and ideas for the pieces”. «It is important to involve people in these projects, so that this natural heritage is valued locally», he added.

For the president of ICNF, «this project is an example of how we manage to transform threats into opportunities and create value in territories. This village itinerary, involving Furnazinhas, Pereiro and Giões, represents the return, albeit small, that a project to reintroduce a wild species into nature can have for the inhabitants of that territory».

«This project also has another advantage, which is to show that the dimension of nature conservation has many other dimensions associated with it: the economic, cultural, social and community dimensions», added Nuno Banza, stating his conviction that «this work will serve as an example for other territories, other projects».


Tó Quintas explaining the Giões lynx process – Photo: Elisabete Rodrigues | Sul Informação


Because the LIFE Lynxconnect project brings together entities from Spain and Portugal, its director, the Spaniard Francisco Javier Salcedo, was also in Alcoutim, where he considered that «one of the great successes in the conservation of the Iberian lynx has been the change in the population's perception rural in relation to this species. That has been the key».

But, to get there, a lot of work has been done, with hunters, with school children, but also with adults who live in the lynx's territory.

In Giões, what it lacks in population, it makes up for in creativity. D. Odília Paulino, from the local association Grito de Alegria, joined five other ladies to work with the artist Tó Quintas and create her own lynx.

The process, explained to Sul Informação, started «by encouraging people to come here, draw on their imagination. We are almost all elderly here, but we are not standing still. This was done by five or six people and each one did what they understood... the artist gave us the paints and we painted. One wanted a darker leg, another wanted it... it was all up to each one's imagination, their will and their knowledge».

The result was an Iberian lynx made of metal, much larger than the animal itself, then painted with colors chosen by each of the artists. «It looks very beautiful, very well done!», said Nuno Banza, president of ICNF, during the tour of visits and inaugurations in the three villages.

Tó Quintas was very happy with this piece – and with the remaining two. «People from the community, in each of the villages, participated with pleasure, with pleasure. They are people of a certain age, but, for the most part, they wanted to give their opinion, especially when choosing where to place the work,” he explained.

In Giões, «the painting was extremely popular, the ladies from this association that does local entertainment, where they paint on ceramics, on fabrics, got very involved. We looked and found several places here on earth. He ended up staying here», he added.


The Furnazinhas lynx


Previously, the delegation of visitors had already been to the roundabout at the entrance to Furnazinhas, where another lynx, this one made from strips of oxidized metal or stainless steel, was opened in a hurry, because in the meantime a brave man had fallen sneak Of rain.

«Blessed rain!», said the inhabitants of the village, who, accompanied by Filomena Sintra, vice-president of the Chamber of Castro Marim, waited patiently for the delegation.

Furnazinhas was once known for its basketry, which had one of its greatest exponents in Mr. António Ferreira, who recently passed away. Tó Quintas explained to the Sul Informação that «we wanted to represent what was done here in the past, in the area of ​​basketry». But, as the materials used in traditional basketry are “a bit sensitive” and do not last long under the sun or rain, “we chose to simulate the intertwining of the canes” with metal pieces.

«I thought it would be an interesting aesthetic, letting the iron oxidize, then having those parts in stainless steel, to create a contrast between the two parts and create a piece that makes people happy».

Graça Palma, from Proactivetur and who coordinated the project on the ground, couldn't be happier with the results that were visible to everyone. «Tó Quintas was selected because he has the characteristics we needed» for a project like this: he is a «no frills» artist, with «easy contact with people», he said.

The artist himself stressed that «this was not an elite process, of a great artist who comes here, deposits his piece and leaves. So much so that I became friends with these people, which was perhaps the biggest “profit” I had in this work».


Group photo next to the Pereiro lynx – Photo: Elisabete Rodrigues | Sul Informação


The delegation of visitors, which traveled on a bus from Alcoutim City Council or in a car, and in all the villages was received by the mayors of the parishes (Odeleite, Giões and Alcoutim/Pereiro) finally arrived in Pereiro, where the lynx, made of metal and shale, was placed on a wall of the dam, next to the leisure and motorhome park. Here too, people from the village helped shape the animal.

After taking the usual photographs once again, João Carlos Simões, president of the Union of Parishes of Alcoutim and Pereiro, invited the delegation and local people to go to the headquarters of the Estrela Pereirense Social and Cultural Association.


Urania in action – Photo: Elisabete Rodrigues | Sul Informação


It was then that a fourth lynx appeared, this one bringing smiles and laughter to everyone. It was Urânia, the stuffed puppet developed by the association Cultural Sting and built by SAMarionettes.

Graça Palma said that the puppet, manipulated by José Gil, had already been presented at festivals in the area, namely at the Festa do Vizinho, on the 31st of May, in Furnazinhas, and at the annual festival of Giões, on the 12th of August. Everything to familiarize people with the friendly figure of the lynx.

On Tuesday, in the Pereiro association room, around fifty people followed attentively the letter that the lynx Urânia read them... and there were even those who, in the end, wanted to pet Urânia or take photos with her, over a patty and a glass of wine, offered by the Parish.

On an afternoon blessed by rain and the smiles of the community, this was a good way to culminate a project that now challenges everyone, whether living in the area or outside, to visit the artistic installations and mountain villages. The Iberian lynx is the focus, but there is much more to discover.


Photos: Elisabete Rodrigues | Sul Informação


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