Posts Tagged ‘rabbits’

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Nature Ramble

Iberian lynx returns to the wild in Spain

Rebecca Morelle joined the Lynx Life team as they released the cats into the wild

Excitement ripples through the crowd that has gathered to catch a rare glimpse of the world’s most endangered cat.

With its lustrous, spotted coat, kohl-rimmed eyes and tufted ears, the Iberian lynx would not look out of place in Africa or Asia. But this is Europe’s big cat.

And the lynx that dozens of people have come out to see today could be the key to saving this species.

The cat was once widespread across Spain and Portugal. But in 2005, its numbers plummeted to just 150, earning it the unenviable title of being the most threatened of the world’s 36 wild cat species.

One of the key factors in this animal’s catastrophic decline was the loss of its main food source: rabbits, which were wiped out by disease.

Habitat destruction has also been a major problem for the lynx.

The situation was so desperate that conservationists in Spain were forced to take radical action: removing some of the cats from the wild and putting them into captivity to breed, in an attempt to boost numbers.

Miguel Simon, director of the Lynx Life project, said: “The situation was really dramatic: there were only two populations left in the wild.

“In order to preserve this species, we had to create a captive population in case the wild population became extinct.”

New home

Understanding the reproductive behaviour of these shy and solitary cats has not been easy.

But over the past five years, breeding centres in Jaen and the Donana National Park, both in Andalucia, have been extremely successful and there are now around 100 cats in captivity.

In 2005, numbers of Iberian lynx plummeted to just 150, but breeding schemes have been a success

And in the wild, thanks to work to enhance the felines’ habitat, numbers are up too – the population has grown to 300 cats.

With this double success, conservationists are ready to put the next part of their rescue plan into action: releasing captive-born lynx into the wild.

Dr Simon said: “The Iberian lynx is a key species in the Mediterranean ecosystem. It is a top predator, and if we preserve this species, we are preserving the whole ecosystem.

“It is our heritage, and we have to preserve it for future generations.”

Lynx Life has carefully selected an area in Sierra Morena for the animals’ new home.

The habitat is perfectly suited to the felines: it is a hilly, forested region, packed with shade for the cats to sleep in when the fierce Spanish Sun becomes unbearably hot.

Most importantly, though, there are plenty of rabbits – without them, the lynx cannot survive.

Today, a large group of people have arrived to see how the cats respond to their new home. They are excited at the rare prospect of a positive news story for this beleaguered animal.

Three young captive-born cats from La Olivilla breeding centre in Juan have been selected for the release.

Source: BBC News Read more

One of the most endangered big cats in the world. If it were to go extinct, it would be the first big cat species to do so since the saber-toothed tiger, 10,000 years ago

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