Iberian lynx: back from the brink of extinction … and run down by cars

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The world’s most feline species, the , is making a comeback in after being pushed to the brink of .

But the costly efforts to reintroduce the spotted cat into the wild face an unexpected enemy – cars.

The number of lynx killed by collisions with vehicles has soared since Spain’s economic crisis began in 2008.

Last year a record 22 lynxes died after being hit by cars, up from just two in 2008.

 A wild Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus), female, in Sierra de Andújar natural park, Mediterranean woodland of Sierra Morena, north east Jaén Province, Andalusia, Spain. Photograph: NPL/Alamy
A wild Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus), female, in Sierra de Andújar natural park, Mediterranean woodland of Sierra Morena, north east Jaén Province, Andalusia, Spain. Photograph: NPL/Alamy

Cars are “the greatest threat for the future of the lynx”, according to the the World Wide Fund for Nature.

“It’s revolting because it’s a problem that could easily be fixed,” said Ramon Perez de Ayala, species programme director at the WWF in Spain.

He estimates it would cost around €6m (£4m) to make roads safer for lynxes by clearing roadsides of brush, putting up barriers and setting up passages that allow the felines to safely cross roads.

“With the excuse of the economic crisis, we have not even carried out the most basic road maintenance works,” said Perez de Ayala.

The public works ministry said it “cooperates in the fight” against road accidents involving lynxes and has carried out needed road works.

The rise in lynx road deaths comes as efforts to boost lynx numbers through breeding programmes are starting to pay off.

Slightly larger than a red fox and distinguished by its black ear tufts, the lynx has seen its population ravaged by farming, poaching and a decline in wild rabbits, its main prey, due to disease.

Lynx numbers dropped from 100,000 at the beginning of the 20th century to less than 100 in 2002, leading the International Union for Conservation of Nature to list the animal as “critically endangered”.

“The Iberian lynx is the only feline classified in the highest category of risk of extinction,” said Catherine Numa of the Spanish branch of the Geneva-based body.

The WWF has warned that the Iberian lynx, found only in Spain and Portugal, could become the first big cat to go extinct since the sabre-tooth tiger died out 10,000 years ago.

This article was first published by The Guardian on 19 Jun 2015.

 

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Supertrooper

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Chasingwildlife

I would just like to point out that the author/reporter who compiled the story can't be much of a wildlife fan. How many felines are on the IUCN list of critically endangered? Iranian Cheetah, the Amur Leopard, the Sumatran Tiger, the Javan Leopard and the Arabian Leopard. Just a small point but there are felines on the list other than the Iberian Lynx. However it is the only full species listed as critically endangered. I think however that losing a subspecies is just as bad as losing a species when at this stage in human development it is just carelessness… Read more »

Linda French

It is the same all over it is always wildlife that suffers from human lack of care, interest or concern. All over people drive too fast where wildlife is crossing roads, and they know this, but it does not slow them down. I have seen it in Florida, with panther killings, and road signs all over saying panther crossing, I see it in Canada as well, People just are too self centered on themselves!

Mark McCandlish

This is unfortunate, but thousands of miles of fencing is no substitute for simply being more observant and driving more carefully. I saw a bobcat struck and injured by a light truck near Mono Lake a few years ago. In the dark and it was running down a steep hill through the snow (and into traffic) at full tilt in pursuit of prey. It was unavoidable. I returned a few days later with the equipment to catch the cat and take it to Tippi Hedron's wild cat facility here in California, but the feline apparently was alright. The track ran… Read more »

Steve Evans

so if there’s more of them,more get hit by cars,it’s same as the hedgehog theory,the cats are doing well

Paul Seligman

I'm not sure that setting up special road crossings for these cats would work. In the UK we've had Zebra Crossings for many years, and I've yet to see a wild one. 🙂