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Iberian Lynx: The World's Most Endangered Cat

THE WORLD’S MOST ENDANGERED CAT The Iberian Lynx, today’s Endangered All-Star, is the world’s most critically endangered cat, with an estimated 84-143 adults left in the wild, reduced from 4,000 in 1960. Should the species be lost, it will be the first feline extinction (aside from subspecies of tigers and lions) since the sabre-toothed cat, 10,000 years ago. Only two known breeding populations survive in Andalucia, on the Iberian Peninsula, one in Spain’s Doñana National Park, a famous wetland reserve on the delta of the Guadalquivir River, and the other near Andújar-Cardeña, in the Sierra Morena. Unfortunately, the populations are physically (and thus genetically) isolated from each other, increasing the risk to survival. The species is now thought to be extinct in Portugal. Genetically distinct from the Eurasian Lynx, the Iberian Lynx feeds almost entirely on rabbits, and the most significant threat—aside from loss of habitat—lies in the sharp reduction in the number of European rabbits due to overhunting and disease. Thus, conservation of the Iberian Lynx—and the Iberian Imperial Eagle—rests heavily on conservation of the rabbit, something that has proven difficult due to degraded habitat. Road kill has also been a significant problem for both the rabbit and the lynx. Whatever hope is left lies in captive breeding programs and increased protection—and linkage—of the two remaining populations. Beginning in 2005, with the birth of three lynx cubs in the captive breeding program in Doñana, these programs have shown promise and may contribute to future reintroductions in the wild. Meanwhile, Flora and Fauna International is supporting a program to restore a corridor of suitable habitat across southwestern Spain and into Portugal, potentially providing a home for reintroduced or expanding populations of Iberian Lynx. For the latest information, see Iberia Nature and Iberian Lynx News.
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