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Saving the Iberian Lynx - Articles Surfing
Of the 32 remaining species of big cat left in the world, the Iberian Lynx is the most endangered, even more so than the Siberian tiger. Western Europe's last remaining big cat is in serious trouble, recent estimations place the number of lynx's remaining at just over 100 and biologists maintain that if drastic action isn't taken soon then the species will be extinct by the end of the decade ' if this happens then it'll be the first species of bit cat to be made extinct since the Sabre-toothed tiger died out about 10,000 years ago.
The question as to why the number of lynx's in Spain has plummeted to such an alarming level is down to a confluence of a number of factors. The modernization of Spain and Portugal since the 50's and 60's has seen vast areas of the lynx's natural habitat destroyed. Once abundant on the Iberian Peninsula, the animal can now only be found in two breeding areas in Andalusia.
Another reason we can look to is the simple lack of enough food to sustain the lynx population. Feeding almost solely on rabbit means the two animal's destinies are inextricably tied to each other. Diseases such as Myxamatosis hammered European rabbit populations in the 50's and 60's with as many as 80-90% of adult rabbits being killed in Spain ' with the decline of Spain's rabbit population it follows that the number of lynx would also be hit; an average sized adult Lynx requires about one rabbit per day in order to survive. It's also fair to say that it gets harder for the species to coexist with man; illegal hunting and trapping still takes place but the biggest killer of all is road accidents, where lynx are hit and killed by cars. In the Do'ana nature reserve in Andalusia it is thought that 80% of Iberian Lynx's killed, die in this way and the proliferation of roads throughout these areas continue to be a huge threat to the species.
For many this begs the question what is to be done to reverse the trend that has seen numbers fall from 1000 a decade ago to the figure we see today? The obvious and most easy solution is basically to educate people about the plight of this solitary creature ' not as high profile or well known as the less endangered Siberian Tiger, fewer people are aware of the critical situation facing west Europe's last big cat species. However this appears to be changing with pressure coming from groups like the WWF and also activities of football club owner Corrado Correggi whose Algarve United club are nicknamed the Lynx's and also donate 10% of all gate receipts and membership fees to Lynx conservation.
In his excellent article 'Iberian Lynx: the last chance', Carlos Sanz points towards the protection of habitat and preservation of food supply as key to saving the species: 'Vegetation needs to be regenerated, and preventing the destruction of the Mediterranean shrub land is paramount, because it's not only the ideal habitat for the lynx but also for it's main prey, the rabbit'. The simple equation is if there are more rabbits then there's more food for the Lynx and numbers will increase. There are already programmes in place to replenish the rabbit population with healthy, disease-free rabbits being bred in captivity and released into lynx territory.
At the moment due to the isolated nature of the breeding communities there's a greater chance of inbreeding ' this only serves to weaken the species by narrowing its genetic code, making them more susceptible to disease and defects. One way to avoid this is to breed more captive lynxes and earlier this year three lynx cubs were successfully born at a programme set up in the Do'ana reserve. There's certainly hope that this majestic animals can be saved from extinction but there's still a lot of work to be done with regards habitat and their food supply before these creatures are safe ' for western Europe's last big cat, the struggle is just beginning.
Copyright © 1995 - Photius Coutsoukis (All Rights Reserved).
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