The 5 Major Threats Facing The Most Endangered Cat Species In The World
This post is part of a Dodo series focused on endangered species. Go to racingextinction.com to learn about an upcoming film on threatened animals and an event sponsored in part by The Dodo.
The Iberian lynx is a lovely and majestic creature to behold, with its tufty ears and fuzzy paws and piercing eyes. Many are unaware that this particular lynx, however, holds a rather unpleasant superlative. It is considered to be the most threatened species of cat in the modern world.
1. They're hungry, and it's increasingly slim pickings.
The main staple of the Iberian lynx diet is the rabbit. However, rabbit populations in the Iberian lynx's isolated Spanish habitat have been increasingly declining over the past fifty years due to disease. In the 1950s myxomatosis caused a major drop in rabbit populations, and Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RHD) in the late 1980s continued this trend. These diseases have left the lynxes with scant food sources.
2. They don't have much of a place to call home.
Iberian lynxes populate (obviously) the Iberian Peninsula, mainly Spain. An increasing amount of infrastructure has been encroaching on the lynx ecosystem, with the scrubland being developed into plantations, as well as various roads and highways.
3. Leaving home is especially rough for them.
Lynxes reach sexual maturity after about a year, after which they will disperse from their natal group and live independently. Dispersing lynxes are those who relocate from their birth area. Mortality rates are extremely high among these lynxes, which keeps the populations generally confined to a small area.
4. The law may be on their side, but hunters aren't.
Though Iberian lynxes have been legally protected from hunting since the early 1970s, illegal hunting has persisted, as the creatures were valued for their fur and meat. Some individuals kill lynxes because they view the wild cats as threats to their livestock. The cats are also frequently killed by traps that have been set for rabbits, which is their main food source.
5. Cars and cats don't mix.
One of the biggest threats to the lynxes are busy highways and roads, where they are often hit by speeding cars. This year alone 17 Iberian lynxes have been killed on roadways.
The main lesson to be gleaned from these threats is that the biggest danger currently facing the Iberian lynx is, well, humans. To learn more about conservation projects that are underway to save this species, click here.