Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Iberian lynx


There are four species of lynx around the world and three of them are not endangered because they can be found in large areas of the northern hemisphere. But a fourth species, the Iberian lynx (lynx pardinus), is the most endangered felid in the world. There are only two or three hundred individuals in some natural parks in the south and west of the Iberian Peninsula (Southern Europe). 
As usual among those critically endangered large mammals, the Iberian lynx has become an icon, especially in Spain since the late 1980s, when the first scientific census was conducted, resulting in a total amount of only 1,200 individuals, with no more than 350 reproductive females. Then people became aware of the species endangerment, so some campaigns were launched to save the Iberian Lynx. This animal became the protagonist of most TV and radio programmes, as well as books and encyclopaedias about the Iberian fauna. At present, the image of a lynx is so attached to the idea of threatened species and extinction that it is even used in other campaigns which have nothing to do with this animal. It seemed we could remedy this problem. But the situation of this feline species got even worse.
By the mid 1980s, the rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus first appeared in China and it soon spread around the world, killing rabbits everywhere. For instance, in Italy, this outbreak killed 80% farm bunnies. But what does it have to do with the Iberian lynx? Easy: wild rabbits represent 90% to 100% of the lynx diet, so the massive death of rabbits resulted in the death of many individuals of lynx in most of its native areas. Final outcome: at the beginning of the 21st century there were only 84 to 143 individuals (kittens excluded) worldwide.
In this last decade, many protection and investment funds have been launched to avoid the extinction of the Iberian lynx. Thanks to this effort, the population has tripled and its habitat has doubled. Moreover, about one hundred individuals are kept in captivity to make them breed and then release them again in the wild. But the future of the Iberian lynx is still in imminent danger, so we could easily loose a treasure.

Sources:
  1. The Iberian lynx: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iberian_lynx
  2. The most endangered feline species in the world: http://www.iberianature.com/material/documents/LynxBrief12E.pdf
  3. First WWF newsletter about the Iberian Lynx: http://awsassets.wwf.es/downloads/lince_online_english_newsletter.pdf
  4. The rabbit hemorrhagic virus (RHV): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabbit_hemorrhagic_disease_virus
  5. Campaign launched by the Spanish Catholic Church against abortion using the image of a lynx: http://www.cadenaser.com/sociedad/articulo/conferencia-episcopal-lanza-nueva-campana-aborto/csrcsrpor/20090316csrcsrsoc_3/Tes

    
    
    
    

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