MADRID – At the beginning of this century, the Iberian lynx was threatened with extinction. Now the lynx population is recovering rapidly. There are now more than a thousand specimens of this feline walking around in Spain.
There is a jubilant mood among protectors of endangered species. According to official data, the population of Iberian lynx has grown significantly in recent years. By 2002, the group of small cats on the Iberian Peninsula was reduced to around a hundred. The species was even threatened with extinction.
Great news for the lynx
According to new figures, there are currently approximately eleven hundred copies around. The fact that there are now so many again is a wonderful example of species conservation. However, it is important to remain vigilant. Although the situation for the Iberian lynx is no longer critical, it is still officially considered an endangered species.
The second most endangered feline in the world
Iberian lynx populations have recovered spectacularly in recent years. The animal was the most endangered feline but has the honor of having fallen to second place on this miserable list. The current number one is the lesser leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis), with less than a hundred individuals left in the wild. This feline is a subspecies of the leopard and lives in northern China and southeastern Russia.
Four lynx species
There are currently four lynx species, of which the Iberian lynx is the most endangered species. The saber-tooth tiger was one of the last felines to become extinct about ten thousand years ago. If the Iberian lynx became extinct, it would be terrible news. Not only for the felines, but also because of all the efforts to protect the species.
Rabbit for food
The diet of the Iberian lynx consists of almost 80 percent rabbit. However, prey populations have declined dramatically, partly due to myxomatosis, a viral infectious disease from France. The lynx’s limited ability to adapt to different foods is one of the factors explaining why populations are declining.
Protected since the 1970s
The success of current conservation policies has saved the Iberian lynx from the risk of extinction. However, the threat has not completely disappeared. In recent decades, the species has fallen victim to hunters who are after lynx skins. Hunting is now considered illegal. Yet the animal is still regularly a victim of poachers, for example.
The revival of the Iberian lynx is mainly due to captive breeding programs. This method of reproduction, outside the lynx’s natural environment (‘ex situ’), has been of decisive importance in recovering the population.
Decrease in habitat
In addition to the amount of food available, the lynx faces another threat: its habitat is shrinking. The lynx populations are scattered. To survive in the long term, it is important that the lynx can move between the different groups.
Lynx fits into its environment
The lynx has striking, large ears with bristly black hairs on the tips. He also has characteristic hair on his chin, which makes him blend in with his surroundings. This characteristic comes in handy when hunting. The lynx is an extremely shrewd hunter. Usually, it sneaks up on its target, then quickly pounces and secures its prey. Sometimes it waits patiently in a strategic spot and finally pounces on its unwary prey.
Lynx are very territorial
The Iberian lynx is a very territorial and solitary animal. Once the male has occupied a territory, he looks for a female to mate with. The female looks for a hollow tree for giving birth and gives birth to one to four young after about eighty days.
The lynx has been seen in various parts of Spain
Recently, lynxes have been sighted in Extremadura, Andalusia and some parts of Castile-La Mancha. According to the last count in 2020, Andalusia has five breeding centers. At the time, 506 copies were counted in that region. In Castilla-La Mancha there were a total of 327 lynxes and in Extremadura 141 lynxes were counted.