Iberian lynx – The World’s Most Endangered Cat

Azahar, female founder of CNRLI in Silves, Portugal

Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) is an unique specie. Endemic in Portugal and Spain, it is classified as the world’s most endangered cat by the IUCN - International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Once wildly spread over the Iberian Peninsula, Iberian lynx is today under the Critical Endangered species status in Portugal, and Endangered in Spain. This happens due to the specie population reduction, which may have been over 80% in the last 15 to 27 years. This fact is even more serious if we have under consideration that those causes can persist.

This reality leads to a fragile subsistence of the specie, which demands the mobilization and commitment of all Iberian society, so we can recover together what we’ve harmed.

This beautiful cat, of which adult females can weight about 9 kg and adult males about 12 kg, have a distinguish reddish-brown fur, sprinkled with little dots and stripes. Their tails are small and have magnificent brushes in the edge of their ears and beards.

Rodents, hares, partridges and other birds are part of their diet, but their favorite meal is the wild rabbit which adults represent about 600 to 1000 kcal, the energetic needs of a grown lynx.

Iberian lynx is a typical Mediterranean habitat specie, preferring dense vegetation areas (like woods, scrublands and bushes) for refuge, but sprinkled with open areas for hunting. It’s also important it to have food and water available all year. Although this is a solitary animal, it’s important a connection between territories in order to allow a dynamic between individuals of the same species, especially on the reproductive time.

Having a deep knowledge of the specie allowed to develop an action plan to make the conservation of the Iberian lynx in Portugal possible, revert the population severe decline that conducted to the present pre-extinction situation and recover the species. Here the captivity reproduction plan, the recovery and maintenance of its habitat and the reintroduction of individuals of the specie in territories with the suitable conditions, are of main importance.

Suitable conditions means to: build favorable foundations to the habitats maintenance and the multiplication of the Iberian lynx natural prays (mostly the wild rabbit); minimize the not natural mortality causes; creating the Iberian Lynx National Reproduction Center in Portugal; rise the social awareness about this theme; work on the preparatory procedures of population monitoring and reintroduction reinforcement with an experimental reintroduction center.

Reintroduction has a key role once this action is one last resort to reestablish a liable population on one territory formerly theirs. This is a procedure that uses individuals born in captivity of which success is directly connected to the success of fulfilling the several requirements in the suitable conditions afore mentioned. This is also a complex technique, which demands a multidisciplinary approach in order to allow the procedure to work in all stages.

At this project, ICNF – Instituto de Conservação da Natureza e das Florestas (Portuguese Nature and Forests Conservation Institute) has the support of an Executive Commission that implements the Action Plan to the Iberian Lynx Conservation. This Commission comprises partner entities representing owners, forest producers, farmers, hunters, scientists, public administration and ENGO (Environmental Non-Governmental Organizations).

Check in the video bellow, the case study “One Year with Mel Lynx” (in Portuguese).

ICNF, I.P. - Instituto da Conservação da Natureza e das Florestas, I.P. (Portuguese Nature and Forests Conservation Institute)

Portuguese Nature and Forests Conservation Institute manage the Portuguese natural and forestall heritage, involving internal and external players of the territorial development of measures and actions of nature conservation and forest management.

The ICNF, I.P. mission is to:

“[…] propose, follow and ensure the execution of the nature forest conservation policies, aiming the conservation, sustainable usage, valorization, usufruct and the public recognition of the natural heritage, promoting sustainable development of woodlands and their associated resources, promote forestry industry competitivity, assure the structural prevention on the planning and actuation context coordinated in the defense of the forest and other synergetic and fish farming in interior waters resources and other directly associated with the forest activities.”

Know more about ICNF at their website.

Cover Photo: Azahar, female founder of CNRLI in Silves, Portugal

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