Our Neighborhood's Biodiversity Map

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Europe
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Shared by : Arushi Madan (UK)
Habitat : Iberian Peninsula and southern France
Status : Endangered on the IUCN Red List
Introduction
The Iberian lynx is a wild cat species native to the Iberian Peninsula in southwestern Europe. It preys almost exclusively on the European rabbit. In the 20th century, the Iberian lynx population declined because of sharp declines in rabbit populations, caused by myxomatosis, rabbit haemorrhagic disease and overhunting, fragmentation of grassland and forest habitats and poaching. By the turn of the 21st century, the Iberian lynx was on the verge of extinction, as only about 100 individuals survived in two isolated subpopulations in Andalusia.
Appearance
The Iberian lynx has a bright yellowish to tawny colored spotted and short fur, a short body, long legs, a short tail, a small head with tufted ears and facial whiskers, called a ruff. The spot pattern of the fur varies from uniformly and densely distributed small spots to more elongate spots arranged in lines that decrease in size from the back towards the sides.
Distribution and habitat
The Iberian lynx was once present throughout the Iberian Peninsula and southern France. In the 1950s, the northern population extended from the Mediterranean to Galicia and parts of northern Portugal, and the southern population from central to southern Spain. It is now restricted to very limited areas in southern Spain, with breeding only confirmed in Sierra Morena and Doñana coastal plains. The Iberian lynx prefers heterogeneous environments of open grassland mixed with dense shrubs such as strawberry tree, mastic, and juniper, and trees such as holm oak and cork oak. It is now largely restricted to mountainous areas.
Conservation measures
Conservation measures implemented since 2002 include improving habitat, restocking of rabbits, translocating and re-introducing Iberian lynxes, so that by 2012 the population had increased to 326 individuals. In 2002, there were fewer than 100 Iberian lynx in the wild, confined to just two regions in southern Spain. Since then, their population has grown to over 300, thanks in part to an ambitious programme called LIFE Iberlince. As an attempt to save this species from extinction, an EU LIFE project is underway that includes habitat preservation, lynx population monitoring, and rabbit population management. Around 20 Iberian lynx were released in 2016 in Spain and Portugal in the latest phase of a reintroduction programme, helping one of the world’s most endangered cats reclaim lost habitats.
Signs of optimism
Conservation Actions Underway
In 2015, the International Union for Conservation of Nature downgraded its status from critically endangered to endangered. Once released, the Iberian lynx roam far and wide, and scientists track their movements with radio collars. But they still face threats, including a haemorrhagic virus affecting rabbits, its main prey.
Importance in Ecosystem
The Iberian lynx has an important role in Mediterranean ecosystems as a predator, helping to control the numbers of foxes, mongoose and genets. It’s also a unique element of Portugal and Spain’s natural heritage. Lynx can significantly save the British countryside which is effectively dying because there’s massive overgrazing from overinflated deer numbers. Lynx will change the whole dynamics of these deer herds, which will reduce forest damage and promote regeneration. Eurasian lynx has already been reintroduced in Germany where it has benefited ecosystems, as well as rural economies by creating opportunities for ecotourism.

Sources/References :
https://www.newscientist.com/article/2076921-iberian-lynx-beats-extinction-as-cats-are-released-to-the-wild/

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