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Demand safety for the Iberian Lynx

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The Iberian lynx has recently gone from the critically endangered species;[1] to the endangered species;[1] thanks to reintroductions and other conservation actions.[32] If the Iberian lynx were to become extinct, it would be the first big cat species to do so since Smilodon populator 10,000 years ago. Its small population makes the cat especially vulnerable to extinction from sudden random events such as a natural disaster or disease.[33] Conservation measures include restoring its native habitat, maintaining the wild rabbit population, reducing unnatural causes of death, and captive breeding for release.[33] The Spanish National Commission for the Protection of Nature endorsed the Iberian Lynx Ex Situ Conservation Breeding Program to serve as a "safety net" by managing the captive population and also to "help establish new Iberian lynx free-ranging populations through reintroduction programmes."[33] Before release of captive-bred cats, their natural habit may be simulated to prepare them for life in the wild.[33] A 2006 study used a non-intrusive monitoring system involving cameras to monitor the demographics of both lynxes and rabbits residing in Sierra Morena.[34] Supplemental food sources could be provided if wild rabbits suffered a decline.[34]

The Iberian lynx and its habitat are fully protected, and they are no longer legally hunted. Threats include habitat loss, vehicle strikes, poisoning, feral dogs, illegal poaching, and occasional outbreaks of feline leukemia.[35] Chronic renal illness affects some captive animals.[36] Habitat loss is due mainly to infrastructure improvement, urban and resort development and tree monocultivation, which fragments the lynx's distribution. In the 20th century, rabbit diseases such as myxomatosis and hemorrhagic disease resulted in a dramatic decline of its main prey;[37] outbreaks have been reported into the 2010s.[20] Accidental vehicle strikes are the leading cause of unnatural death;[38][39] The death toll on Spanish roads was 14 in 2013,[40] and 21 in 2014.[41] Illegal traps set for rabbits and foxes are other leading causes for lynx fatality.[42]

In 2013, it was reported that the Iberian lynx possesses antibiotic resistant bacteria within its digestive tract, which may lead to more dangerous and difficult-to-treat infections and decrease the cat's fitness.[43] A 2013 study suggests climate change may threaten the Iberian lynx species due to their inability to adapt well to new climates or it may lead them to relocate to areas that have a more suitable climate but fewer rabbits, increasing mortality.[44]

Management efforts are being developed to conserve and restore the animal's native range.[2] Officials intending to release captive-bred lynx look for areas of appropriate habitat, rabbit abundance, and acceptance by the local human population.[45] About 90 million euros was spent on various conservation measures between 1994 and 2013.[46] The European Union contributes up to 61% of funding.[22][35]

 
Iberian lynx in closeup
Wild population and re-introductions[edit]
 
Graph showing Iberian lynx population in Spain, 1960–2007
The Iberian lynx species has declined by about 80% in the last 20 years. The cat was estimated to number 3,000 in 1960,[47]about 400 in 2000, less than 200 in 2002, and possibly as few as 100 in March 2005.[48] Doñana National Park and the Sierra de Andújar, Jaén had the only known breeding populations until the 2007 discovery of a previously unknown population of around 15 individuals in Castile-La Mancha (central Spain).[49][50] In 2008, the Doñana population was assessed at 24 to 33, while the Sierra Morena group was believed to number 67 to 190 adults. The total population was estimated to be 99 to 158 adults, including the La Mancha population. The Iberian lynx was thus listed as Critically Endangered under C2a(i) on the IUCN Redlist.[1]

Beginning in 2009, the Iberian lynx was reintroduced into Guadalmellato, resulting in a population of 23 in 2013.[9] Since 2010, the species has also been released in Guarrizas.[45][51] Discussions were held with the Ministry of Environment on plans for releases in the Campanarios de Azaba area near Salamanca.[52] In April 2013, it was reported that Andalusia's total wild population—only 94 in 2002—had tripled to 309 individuals.[8][9] In July 2013, environmental groups confirmed the presence of a wild-born litter in the Province of Cáceres (Extremadura).[53] A study published in July 2013 in Nature Climate Change advised that reintroduction programs take place in northern Iberia, suggesting that climate change would threaten rabbits in the south.[46][54]

species has declined by about 80% in the last 20 years. The cat was estimated to number 3,000 in 1960,[47]about 400 in 2000, less than 200 in 2002, and possibly as few as 100 in March 2005.[48] Doñana National Park and the Sierra de Andújar, Jaén had the only known breeding populations until the 2007 discovery of a previously unknown population of around 15 individuals in Castile-La Mancha (central Spain).[49][50] In 2008, the Doñana population was assessed at 24 to 33, while the Sierra Morena group was believed to number 67 to 190 adults. The total population was estimated to be 99 to 158 adults, including the La Mancha population. The Iberian lynx was thus listed as Critically Endangered under C2a(i) on the IUCN Redlist.[1]

Beginning in 2009, the Iberian lynx was reintroduced into Guadalmellato, resulting in a population of 23 in 2013.[9] Since 2010, the species has also been released in Guarrizas.[45][51] Discussions were held with the Ministry of Environment on plans for releases in the Campanarios de Azaba area near Salamanca.[52] In April 2013, it was reported that Andalusia's total wild population—only 94 in 2002—had tripled to 309 individuals.[8][9] In July 2013, environmental groups confirmed the presence of a wild-born litter in the Province of Cáceres (Extremadura).[53] A study published in July 2013 in Nature Climate Change advised that reintroduction programs take place in northern Iberia, suggesting that climate change would threaten rabbits in the south.[46][54]

On November 26, 2014, 8 Iberian lynxes were released into Toledo, Spain, one of them traveled near Madrid, the first time in 40 years.[55]

The presence of Iberian lynxes in Portugal (particularly in the south) has been verified,[56] but there is no evidence of reproduction. In 2014, the Institute for Nature Conservation and Forests signed contracts securing 2,000 hectares of land for Portugal's reintroduction project.[57] On December 16, 2014, a pair of Iberian lynx was released into Guadiana Valley Natural Park near Mértola, Portugal.[58] On February 7, 2015, another pair was released into the park, but the female was later found dead on March 12, 2015 after being poisoned in Mertola.[59] The last pair of captive-bred Iberian lynxes were released into Guadiana Valley Nature Reserve on May 12, 2015.[60] By the end of 2015 there were 400 lynx on the Iberian peninsula, the vast majority in Andalusia, in southern Spain, but with smaller new populations in the hills near Toledo, in Extremadura (south-western Spain) and in southern Portugal.[61]

Since a 2007 outbreak of feline leukemia virus (FeLV), wild lynxes are tested periodically for possible disease. September–December 2013 samples were negative for FeLV but one male became the first of his species to test positive for feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and was placed into quarantine.[62]

 



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