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Lynx pardinus

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
ANIMALIA CHORDATA MAMMALIA CARNIVORA FELIDAE

Scientific Name: Lynx pardinus
Species Authority: (Temminck, 1827)
Common Name(s):
English Iberian Lynx, Spanish Lynx, Pardel Lynx
French Lynx d'Espagne, Lynx pardelle
Spanish Lince Ibérico
Taxonomic Notes: Previously considered conspecific with Lynx lynx by some authorities, now accepted as a distinct species on the basis of both genetics (Johnson et al. 2006, Eizirik et al. submitted) and morphology (Werdelin 1981, Wozencraft 2005).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered C2a(i) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Von Arx, M. & Breitenmoser-Wursten, C.
Reviewer(s): Nowell, K., Breitenmoser-Wursten, C., Breitenmoser, U. (Cat Red List Authority) & Schipper, J. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)
Justification:
The Iberian Lynx occurs only in isolated pockets of southwestern Spain, and its continued survival in Portugal is uncertain. There are only two known breeding populations in Spain, and the latest survey results suggest a minimum of 84 and a maximum of 143 adults surviving in two breeding populations (in the Coto Doñana and near Andújar-Cardeña in the eastern Sierra Morena). The Doñana population numbers 24-33 adults and the Sierra Morena is the stronghold of the species with an estimated 60-110 adults. These populations are isolated from one another making them even more vulnerable. None of the remaining potential populations in East Montes de Toledo, West Sistema Central and some areas of central and western Sierra Morena is thought to include animals that breed regularly. Current numbers are not sufficient for the survival of the species in the long term and experts agree the cat is now on the brink of extinction (IUCN 2007).

With a total population of 84-143 adults, the Iberian Lynx qualifies as Critically Endangered under C2a(i). There has been a continuing decline due to severe depletion of its primary prey, the European rabbit, by disease and over-hunting, with additional threats of high rates of non-natural lynx mortality and habitat destruction and fragmentation. The effective population size of the largest subpopulation (Sierra Morena) is likely less than 50 mature breeding individuals, based on the general measure for felids (the proportion of the adult population contributing to the gene pool through successful raising and recruitment of offspring is 50%: Nowell et al. 2007).
History:
2010 Critically Endangered
2006 Critically Endangered (IUCN 2010.2)
2002 Critically Endangered
1996 Endangered
1994 Endangered (Groombridge 1994)
1990 Endangered (IUCN 1990)
1988 Endangered (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
1986 Endangered (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: The Iberian lynx is restricted to the Iberian peninsula, confined to scattered groups in the southwestern quadrant of the Iberian peninsula as a result of the fragmentation of their natural habitat by agricultural and industrial development. Only two or three groups in Spain are considered to have populations which could be viable in the long term. It is possibly extinct in Portugal (IUCN 2007).
Countries:
Native:
Spain
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: The Iberian lynx occurs only in isolated pockets of Spain and possibly Portugal. The latest survey results from Spain suggest a minimum of 84 and a maximum of 143 adults surviving in two breeding populations: iin the Coto Doñana and near Andújar in the eastern Sierra Morena. The Doñana population numbers 24-33 adults and the Sierra Morena is the stronghold of the species with an estimated 60-110 adults. These populations are isolated from one another making them even more vulnerable. None of the remaining potential populations in East Montes de Toledo, West Sistema Central and some areas of central and western Sierra Morena is thought to include animals that breed regularly. Current numbers are not sufficient for the survival of the species in the long term and experts agree the cat is now on the brink of extinction. The latest population estimates represent a Spanish decline of more than 80 per cent since the last survey (1987-1988) suggested as many as 1,136 lynxes. A similar decline of 80 per cent was estimated in Spain for the period 1960-1978 (IUCN 2007).

In Portugal a sign search, camera trapping and box trapping survey conducted in 2002 by the Instituto da Conservacao da Natureza failed to detect a single lynx (Sarmento et al. 2004). The most recent evidence of the presence of lynx in Portugal comes from the discovery of a scat in the Guadiana area in 2001, which was identified by molecular analysis (Pires and Fernandes 2003). During the 1990s, a national survey based on personal interviews and dead animal records suggested a population of about 40 lynxes fragmented in small subpopulations in five different areas: Algarve mountains, Sado Valley, Guadiana, S. Mamede and Malcata. However, further local field surveys indicated the absence of resident animals, pointing to a pre-extinction scenario (Pinto 2000, Fernandes et al. 2001, Sarmento et al. 2004)
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: The Iberian lynx occurs in Mediterranean woodland and maquis thicket. It favours a mosaic of dense scrub for shelter and open pasture for hunting rabbits (ICONA 1992). Palomares et al. (1991) examined habitat preferences of lynx in the Coto Doñana area of south-western Spain, including the national park and environs. Lynx were generally absent from cropland and exotic tree plantations (eucalyptus and pine), where rabbits were also scarce. In the park, radiotelemetry showed that more than 90% of daytime resting spots used by lynx were located in thick heather scrub (Beltrán et al. 1987).

The Iberian lynx is a specialised feeder, with rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) accounting for 80-100 per cent of its diet. Other species occasionally taken include rodents, hares, partridges, ducks, geese, juvenile deer, and fallow deer, but these do not form an important part of the lynx's diet. Lynx often kill other carnivore species, including those regarded as pests by humans, such as feral cats and foxes, but do not eat them. The lynx's highly specialised diet makes it a naturally vulnerable species and the rapid decline in rabbit populations since the 1950s has had a direct impact on lynx numbers (IUCN 2007).
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The Iberian Lynx is a naturally vulnerable species because of its dependence on only one prey species, the rabbit, and its narrow habitat spectrum. The dramatic decline in rabbit populations, caused by habitat changes and myxomatosis since the 1950s and Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RHD) since the late 1980s, has therefore had a direct impact on lynx numbers. Over-hunting of rabbits and other human activities have further compounded the problems of prey scarcity. In recent years, prey scarcity has been compounded by high rates of non-natural mortality and habitat destruction and fragmentation.

Habitat destruction, deterioration and alteration have impacted negatively on the lynx for centuries. Notable examples since the middle of the 20th century include the planting of Mediterranean scrublands with pines and eucalyptus and more recently the over stocking of deer and livestock on private estates and the opening up of roads and forest tracks in previously remote areas. The lynx's preferred habitat mosaic has also suffered at the hands of afforestation and scrub clearance schemes, road building, dam construction, and the building of holiday homes. New infrastructure projects continued to fragment lynx populations and created new barriers in corridor areas between the remaining populations in the 1960s. More than forty separate lynx populations in Spain and Portugal appear to have collapsed since the early 1980s. WWF Spain/Adena has identified 53 different public works that will affect important areas for the Iberian lynx. Heavier and faster traffic is also taking an unacceptably high toll on lynx each year as juveniles venture away from their areas of birth in search of new habitats. This high mortality has been an important factor in the decline of the species, particularly in the areas surrounding Doñana National Park.

The Iberian Lynx received protection against hunting in the early 1970s and since then hunting has dropped off. However, some lynxes are still shot and killed in traps and snares set for smaller predators, particularly on commercial hunting and shooting estates (IUCN 2007).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Lynx pardinus is currently listed on CITES Appendix I, and on Appendix II of the Bern Convention and Annexes II* and IV of the EU Habitats and Species Directive. It is also fully protected under national law in Spain and Portugal, and is classed as Critically Endangered on the national Red Lists of both countries (Palomo and Gisbert 2002, Cabral et al. 2005). Public awareness and education programs have helped change attitudes towards the lynx particularly among private landowners in lynx areas. Two international seminars have been held, in 2002 and 2004, to establish a coordinated strategy to save the Iberian lynx from extinction (Olszanska and Breitenmoser 2004). A captive breeding programme has been started in Spain. In Portugal, the National Action Plan foresees a re-introduction programme. The construction of facilities for breeding and reintroduction has been prepared (ICN 2003, Sarmento et al. 2004).

In the short term, in situ conservation efforts must concentrate on preserving the last two breeding populations in Coto Doñana and Andújar-Cardeña. Priority must also be given to maintaining several large areas (of at least 500 km²) of suitable habitat to harbour new lynx populations. The central and western regions of Sierra Morena and the Toledo Mountains, as well as other areas in Spain and Portugal naturally rich in rabbits, will be vital for this purpose. All lynx habitat must be strictly protected from further destructive infrastructure projects. Captive breeding is of critical importance for lynx recovery. In addition to providing a vital gene bank for the survival of the species, captive lynxes will be needed to recolonise the many areas where populations have collapsed. Efforts to stimulate rabbit recovery must also be intensified. Without sufficient prey density, lynx populations will continue to decline and reintroductions will not be feasible (in spite of recent rabbit conservation measures in Doñana National Park, such as restocking, protection of burrows and vegetation management, rabbit numbers remain low). An adaptive conservation process based on careful monitoring of the last populations and the results of the measures implemented is necessary to facilitate the survival of the Iberian lynx. Recovery plans in all regions where the lynx has occurred over the past decade also need to be rapidly implemented (IUCN 2007).

Citation: Von Arx, M. & Breitenmoser-Wursten, C. 2008. Lynx pardinus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 23 December 2014.
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