Iberian Lynx – Another Big Cat on the Road to Extinction

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Recent news shook the wild life fans and nature defenders to the core. According to long term studies the Iberian Lynx faces extinction in the next 50 years. The culprits are the usual ones in such cases: climate changes and human interference.

Iberian-Lynx-Another-Big-Cat-on-the-Road-to-Extinction

A Problem Requiring Long Term Attention

The matter is notunkowns to the Spanish authorities. Measures have been taken since 1994 and efforts were made to limit the number of habitat interference, road kills, poaching and hunting. Studies were conducted over their movement patterns and the conclusion was beyond worrisome:  in the 1800’s the lynx populated large territories all over Spain but nowadays there are only 250 individuals separated in two areas. Of these only 50 are females.

What Happened?

Since 1800’s the urban development caused the necessity for a large network of public roads to cross the Iberian lynx’s habitat. Human habitats as well as railways fragmented even further the lynx’s territory leading more and more animals towards interaction with the human world. An impressive number of cats died in road and railway accidents and uncontrolled poaching activity decreased the number of individuals in the fragmented groups which led to less and less breading.

This is one of the reasons behind the fact that in only 40 years, from 1960 to 1990 the Iberian lynx population was reduced by 80%.

Reasons that are Difficult to Control

Another reason that led to the endangerment of this wild species is the decrease in the food supply. Frequent epidemics made the rabbit population, the main food source of the Iberian lynx, scarce. An even more uncontrollable factor is the climate change which also affects the rabbit breeding and by it the future food source of the remaining individuals.

Hunting

Hunting the Iberian lynx is forbidden since 1970. However, since most landowners saw the adult cats as vermin decreasing the wild game on their properties, illegal hunts were part of the reasons decreasing the number in the remaining groups. Also a lot of cats died because of poison and traps mostly set for other animals.

Actions Meant to Save the Species

Important efforts are being made to support the captive breeding programs all over Spain. A genome of the lynx was saved in the idea of helping with diversification of the species.

The WWF is making increasing efforts to save the Iberian lynx and they have an ambitious target to protect the CotoDonana Wetlands, the lynx’s natural habitat. There is also a project meant to help lynx reach a new home, further north close to the French border where the cork trees will create an ideal habitat for this endangered species.

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