Image: Wikimedia Commons

The Iberian lynx is the world’s most endangered cat — but the World Wildlife Fund is working to protect the species and has recently introduced 37 captive bred individuals into areas outside Andalusia. 

This wild cat species is native to the Iberian peninsula, persisting in remote places in Spain including the Doñana and the Sierra Morena. While very few people have encountered an Iberian lynx in the wild, they are closely monitored by camera traps and radio collars. In fact, every individual member of the species is known by name.

WWF conservationists work tirelessly to protect and conserve the species, studying their behavior and movement patterns in order to prevent poaching and identify hazardous areas. The Iberian lynx is susceptible to habitat degradation due to growing infrastructure, mining, and water pollution — but above all suffers from a loss of their primary prey source, the rabbit. 

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Rabbits comprise more than 90% of their diet, but unfortunately for the lynx also serve as the key diet of many other Mediterranean species. In order for the Iberian lynx to regain its population numbers, an expansion of habitat and restoration of rabbit numbers are essential.

The WWF has selected specific sites to help restore the lynx population in eastern Sierra Morena, Montes de Toledo, the Matachel valley in Extremadura, and the Guadiana valley in Portugal. Last year, 37 captive bred Iberian lynxes were released into these reintroduction areas. They are now thriving, with more than 30 cubs born in the wild so far.

Efforts by the World Wildlife Fund have saved the Iberian lynx from extinction thus far, but the fight for their continued survival is far from over.