Location: Iberian peninsula of southern Europe
The Iberian lynx is the world's most threatened species of cat, and is currently teetering on the brink of extinction. According to the conservation group SOS Lynx, if the Iberian lynx died out, it would be the first feline species to become extinct since prehistoric times.
Numbers of Iberian lynx have been decimated by habitat loss, with scrublands converted to agriculture and pine and eucalypt plantations, and with human development such as dams, highways and railways all encroaching on its native habitat. Conversion of habitat and overhunting have also reduced populations of the lynx’s main food source, the rabbit, and rabbit numbers also declined drastically after the introduction of the myxomatosis virus in the 1950s. Despite protection measures and heavy fines, illegal hunting continues, and the accidental killing of lynx in rabbit traps, traps set for smaller carnivores, or with poisoned fox bait, together with road fatalities, are some of the major causes of mortality at present.
Only two isolated breeding populations of Iberian lynx are now known to remain, totalling perhaps 170 adults at most, and no other populations are believed to include individuals that breed regularly. The Iberian lynx is legally protected in both Spain and Portugal, and is also listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), meaning international trade in the species is prohibited. The Iberian lynx occurs in some protected areas, notably Doñana National Park, where a management plan has been implemented. This has included measures to increase rabbit numbers within the park, through habitat improvements and the removal of ungulates, thus reducing competition with rabbits for food. Further recommended conservation measures for the Iberian lynx include protecting remaining habitat, public awareness programmes, and intensifying efforts to increase the rabbit population.
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