Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Iberian Lynx: On The Threshold of Extinction

Photo courtesy: Wikipedia

If you haven't heard of the Iberian Lynx, you are not alone. The Iberian Lynx is a rare cat native to Spain and Portugal inhabiting the Iberian Peninsula. It is the most critically endangered cat species in the world.

According to the conservation group SOS Lynx, if this species dies out, it will be the first feline extinction since the Smilodon 10,000 years ago.

Look at the size of those teeth!! Smilodon californicus fossil at the National Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC. Photo courtesy: Wikipedia

In 2000, the lynx population was approximately 400; but, now there are only 150 - 250Iberian Lynx left on the planet. However,the news is not totally bleak. There are indications that numbers could be on the increase; and, incredibly, a new population has been found in central Spain that is genetically distinct from the already-known populations. This means that inbreeding can be limited to the surviving population.

The Iberian lynx and its habitat are fully protected and are no longer legally hunted. Its critical status is mainly due to habitat loss, poisoning, road casualties, feral dogs and poaching. Its habitat loss is due mainly to infrastructure improvement, urban & resort development, tree monocultivation (pine, Douglas-fir, eucalyptus) which serves to break the lynx's distribution area. In addition, the lynx's major prey - rabbits - is also declining due to diseases like myxomatosis and hemorrhagic pneumonia.

Photo courtesy: gliving

The Iberian Lynx closely resembles a Bobcat. They can be distinguished from each other by the tail. The lynx's tail is black all the way around the tail; while the Bobcat's tail is black on the tip and white on the bottom. The tuft of black hair on the tip of their ears and sideburns helps it detect sound sources; the edges of its feet are covered in long thick fur that acts like a snow shoe and enables them to move silently while stalking their prey; their coat is a light gray with some brownish-yellow colouring mixed in and marked with distinct leopard-like spots all of which combine to make a unique cat species.

A captive-breeding program near the Coto Donana wetlands, a center for conservation, should help the population rise again.

Via gliving

No comments: