The Iberian Lynx: Safe And Sound? Claudia Estrella, Spain

The Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) is a feline species that owes its name to the land where it lives: the Iberian Peninsula in southwestern Europe. With its spotted, tawny coloured fur and its tufted, triangle-shaped ears, the Iberian Lynx is considered one of the most stunning and important wild felines on Earth. However, this species is, unfortunately as of right now, endangered.

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           Figure 1: Iberian lynx

According to the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), the Iberian lynx has been considered a critically endangered species in the institutions’ Red List. However, due to the recent partial recovery of this wild feline, it is now catalogued solely as an endangered species. Since 2002, its population has increased from 94 individuals to 327 in 2014 due to the hard work of ecologists and organizations like WWF. Although this is great news for the Iberian lynx, the other side of the coin states that this species is still desperate for its survival.

The Iberian lynx has always had difficulties when it comes to maintaining or even increasing its population due to human impact and the struggles this feline faces when adapting to new habitats. In the past, not only was this species not seen as a worthy, protected kind of feline, but it was in chased and hunted down because of the false belief that these animals were dangerous, as well as for pure sport. Back in 1937, more than 500 lynxes were killed annually just to sell their fur. Years later, in 1953, each Junta Provincial de Extinción de Animales Dañinos (Government-run organizations to deal with dangerous species) were responsible for at least 150 Iberian lynx’s deaths between 1954 and 1961.

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Figure 2: Female lynx shot down during a fox hunt in Grandola  (Portugal) in 1972. Source: iberlince.eu

The human impact, specifically during the 20th century left a rather unbalanced and overall tough situation for the Iberian lynx, which quickly diminished the species’ ability to develop and grow as a population. Proof of this is in the fact that the species has completely disappeared in Portugal.

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Figure 3: Distribution of the Iberian lynx in the Iberian Peninsula in 2004 (left) and 1979 (right). Source: Iberlince.eu

Unfortunately, the 21st century did not come along with a completely positive change for this species: the death of individuals still continues to take place. Despite all the figures that indicate that the Iberian lynx is recovering well, they still continue to disappear every year (as can be seen in Figure 4.) The causes of their deaths are majorly due to the disappearance of rabbits, Iberian Lynx’s main food source, as well as human-related fatalities, mainly from collisions with cars.

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Figure 4: Evolution of Iberian Lynx’s individual deaths in Spain from 2002 to 2014. Based on data from Iberlince and Lifelince.

This means that the Iberian lynx is actually not as prosperous as it might seem at first place, and it is important not to neglect the conservation effort of this wild animal. The number of deaths of this feline has been rising in the past years and if the trend continues like this, this magnificent species could see an end in its bloodline.

Ecologists, organizations and the government need to work together to end what seems to be a rising pattern in the feline’s deaths rates. However, we, as citizens, also need to assume responsibility when it comes to the environment and everything that surrounds us. The Iberian lynx is one of the most astonishing species there are, and it would be heartbreaking and simply tragic to see these animals disappear because of our irresponsible behaviour.

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