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The (In)visibility of the Iberian Lynx

From Vermin to Conservation Emblem

Margarida Lopes-Fernandes and Amélia Frazão-Moreira

Keywords: animal representations; human-nonhuman relationship; lynx; nature objectification; predator perceptions

Not much is known about how the cultural image of predators has been constructed in Western contexts and changed through time. This article reviews representations of lynx in Western Europe. A ‘cultural map’ of lynx in historical contexts is presented, and the ‘social visibility’ of the Iberian lynx in Portugal explored. Since prehistoric times the lynx has been an inspiration, an amulet, a creature gifted with extraordinary capacities but also a food item, and a ‘vermin’ to eliminate. Recently, the Iberian lynx has become a global conservation emblem; once a noxious predator, it is now a symbol of wilderness. Examples show how the species acquired visibility and has been appropriated in contemporary contexts such as logos, ‘green’ marketing, urban art or political campaigns. There is also evidence of a new identity construction in Portuguese rural areas where lynx is being reintroduced, exemplifying a process of objectification of nature.

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