The Scientific Name: Lynx pardinus
This Iiberian lynx was distributed over the entire Iberian Peninsula as recently as the mid nineteenth century. It was found throughout Spain and Portugal and likely in the French Pyrenees. Numbers declined in the first half of the 20th century due to the decline of goat-herding (which helped maintain habitat for rabbit, the main food source of the Iberian lynx) and its replacement by grain cultivation. The decline accelerated in the 1950s because myxomatosis, a disease which decimated rabbit populations, spread into Spain from France, where it was introduced in 1952.
In 1970s, the estimated population was just couple of thousands found in isolated pockets of southern Iiberian Penninsula. By 2002, the population reduced to just 300. Despite efforts the population kept on reducing and in 2007 the figure stood at just around 100 in the wild. But after rigorous efforts by conservationists the population is slightly up now at around 200. It is now restricted to very small areas, with breeding only confirmed in two areas of Andalucía, southern Spain. The decline of the Iberian lynx in the second half of this century has been mainly due to the decline of its main prey, the rabbit , hunting and loss of the lynx’s habitat. The hunting is made illegal now. But its critical status now is mainly due to habitat loss, poisoning, road casualties, feral dogs and poaching.
The Iiberian Lynx is predominantly nocturnal and is an excellent tree climber. It uses a variety of locations for breeding lairs, even including old stork nests as much as 9 – 12 m above the ground. The typical gestation period is about two months; the cubs are born between March and September, with a peak of births in March and April. A litter consists of two or three kittens weighing between 200 to 250 grams. Home ranges of males and females generally do not overlap other ranges of the same sex. Male ranges overlap one or more female ranges.
Iiberian Lynx hunts mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians at twilight, but the European rabbit is its main prey. A male requires one rabbit per day; a female bringing up cubs will eat three rabbits per day.
The Iiberian Lynx is a small wild cat, smaller than its relatives in the northern part of Europe, Eurasian Lynx. It weighs 9 – 13 kg (20 – 30 lb) , male being heavier and larger than the female. The head and body length is 85 to 110 centimetres (33 to 43 in), with the short tail an additional 12 to 30 centimetres (4.7 to 12 in). It has very distinctive Leopard like marks with a light grey or light brownish-yellow coat.
Iberian Lynx has got very good attention from both government and other wildlife organizations over the past decades. In 1970, the hunting of Iberian Lynx was made illegal. Lynx became legally protected in 1973 in Spain and 1974 in Portugal. In 1996, IUCN identified Iberian Lynx as the most endangered among all the wild cat species in the world. In 2002, IUCN Cat Specialist Group initiated the first International Conference on the Conservation of the Iberian Lynx in Andujar, Spain. This brought a huge change to the conservation efforts of the species. In 2004, the Cat Specialist Group co-organized the second conference in Córdoba, Spain, in partnership with the Government of Andalusia and the WorldWide Fund for Nature (WWF). WWF has also contributed to Iberian lynx conservation through the creation and sponsorship of the Large Carnivore Initiative for Europe (LCIE). SOS Lynx is another organization that helps raising public awareness and education regarding protection of the Iberian Lynx. In the recent years, the LIFE-Lince project has been concentrating on minimizing both threats and the limiting factors in the Iberian lynx conservation. The project has been also working on the reintroduction of captive individuals into wild to strengthen wild population.
Captive breeding is another hope for the survival of the Iberian Lynx. The captive breeding program failed for initial few years, but on March 29, 2005, A Lynx named Saliega bred successfully in captivity, giving birth to three healthy kittens at the El Acebuche Breeding Center, Spain. Over these years, the Iberian Lynx captive breeding centers in Spain have created a captive breeding population of around 100 individuals, spread across three facilities. In 2009, an additional center was opened in Silves, Portugal too. In March, 2012, seven Iberian Lynx cubs were born to two adult females at this Iberian Lynx reproduction center. These are very encouraging news for the survival of the species. All these captive reproduction centers aim to reintroduce captive individuals into wild to reinforce the wild population. The first reintroductions of Iberian Lynx into a new area were carried out in December 2009 with six individuals. Though this reintroduction was not very successful as the individuals didn’t survive for more than a years in the wild, yet continued efforts have been made to reintroduce into wild. In first half of 2012, 15 individuals have been released into the wild.
A documentary on Iberian Lynx by National Geographic – Spain’s Last Lynx