Photo: Joana Bourgard/Wilder

Jan Valkenburg: “it’s crucial to know what the lynx is feeling”

Jan Valkenburg, 34, from The Netherlands, is the keepers’ coordinator in CNRLI. He works there since 2009.


Jan Valkenburg, with a degree in Art and Design, always liked animals. He has been in Portugal for 33 years but he has travelled to several countries. Jan was a volunteer in the Amazon rainforest – where he worked with primates -, in England, at a centre for rescued animals from circuses and laboratory experiments, and in Nigeria, at a primate rescue project.



In The Netherlands, he worked in a factory making ketchup to earn enough money to travel and fulfil a mission. And he succeeded. In 2008 he travelled in Africa for ten months, visited wildlife sanctuaries and learned a lot. In 2009 he returned to Portugal. “When I learnt of this centre for the Iberian-lynx I decided to send my curriculum. And I entered right from the start.”

“In those days, I had heard little of the Iberian-lynx, but after training in Doñana and La Olivilla centres, the animal captivated me immediately. I liked the challenge. There are surprises here every day.”

Jan is coordinator of the keepers in CNRLI since February 2010. “This is a very variable work. You have to take care of the animals and also to coordinate tasks, deal with food orders for lynx and adapt schedules to the different seasons.”

The moments of captures and animal escapes are especially challenging. “Our reaction comes with experience. What’s important in this work is to interpret what the animal is feeling. During captures, we must anticipate what it is going to do in the next seconds. The keeper must be able to anticipate.”

“What I like the most is the capture, for example, when we have to pass one animal from one enclosure to another or when you need to take a lynx to analysis or any veterinary procedure. I like when there is risk or there is something happening.”


The Birth of an Iberian-Lynx

A team from Wilder has been at CNRLI for two days on March 2015. In this series we show you how is it to work at this centre and all the people who take care of this endangered species.

Witness the birth of an Iberian-lynx.