The majority of people are familiar with the charismatic big cat species. Everyone can recognize a tiger with its dark stripes slinking through the jungle, or a male lion with its mane regally walking through the savannah exploring his kingdom. However, there are many more cat species that stalk and hunt in the forests and jungles of our planet that some people are not as familiar with. One of these species was down to just a hundred individuals at the beginning of the 21st century. A widespread conservation campaign was undertaken to bring this species back from the brink of extinction and by today there a little over four hundred left. Meet the Iberian lynx.
One of the biggest threats that the lynx faced was the loss of its prey species. At first the lynx was hunted because people believed that it depleted the numbers of other types of game and so therefore the lynx was seen as a form of vermin. The Spanish government eventually stepped in and in 1973 the lynx was granted protection. The lynx no longer had to worry about falling victim to a hunter’s bullet but its worries were not over, not by a long shot. A deadly disease broke out among the rabbit population. Rabbits are the main prey species of the Iberian lynx and a single lynx needs one rabbit per day, while a mother lynx needs two or three. Scientists estimated that in some areas up to 95% of the rabbit population was completely wiped out.
This is a perfect example of how everything in life is connected, remove one block from the food chain and it affects everything above it, with the loss of the rabbit the lynx began to die off due to starvation. Rabbits have begun to stabilize from the disease that at one time was wiping them out, and with reintroduction of rabbits into the lynx’s habitat, loss of prey is no longer as big as a concern as it once was. The next threat that awaited the lynx was a dark reality known to thousands of animal species across the globe, habitat loss. The cork forests in Spain that the lynx has called home for centuries are being torn down to make way for farming and other development projects. An organization called Flora and Fauna International created a corridor for lynx across Spain and Portugal. Any lynx living in this protected area will be safe from losing their homes, the land also provides cover for rabbits, making sure the lynx will not face the issue of starvation again.
While the situation may not be as dire as it once was for the Iberian lynx and it has since been downgraded from critically endangered to simply endangered, it is not out of the woods yet. Should another disease break out among the European rabbit population then the lynx will again face starvation. Also, habitat loss is still a very real threat and although some parts of the lynx’s habitat are being placed under protection the range that they cover is nowhere near as large as it once was. In the grand scheme of things however we can be a little proud of ourselves as members of humanity, this animal was one slip away from being lost forever and we managed to bring it a little closer back into the light.
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