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Facts on Biodiversity & Human Well-being
 

 

Iberian Lynx - Lynx pardinus


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Iberian Lynx - Lynx pardinus (Temminck, 1827).

IUCN STATUS CATEGORY Endangered

HABITAT Mediterranean marquis, a scrub like habitat of open forests and thickets.

GEOGRAPHICAL SPREAD Lynx are present in at least 10 central and south-western parts of Spain, covering 10 to 15,000sq. km. Some areas contain only a dozen lynx, the relatively large areas of Sierra Morena and Montes de Toledo contain 70 to 80 per cent of the total population. Small breeding populations of lynx remain in southern Portugal.

CURRENT POPULATION The total number probably does not exceed 1,200 with only about 350 breeding females (Blanco, and González, 1992).

SIZE Head and body length 85 to 110cm. Tail length 12 to 30cm. Shoulder height 60 to 70cm.

WEIGHT Males 12.9kg. Females 9.4kg.

AVERAGE LIFE EXPECTANCY Unknown.

NORMAL DIET Almost exclusively rabbits.

NORMAL LIFESTYLE Adults tend to avoid each other except during the breeding season. Iberian Lynx are primarily nocturnal, with activity peaking at twilight. More than 90 per cent of daytime resting spots used by lynx are located in thick heather scrub.

PREVIOUS GEOGRAPHICAL SPREAD The lynx was previously found in suitable habitat throughout the Iberian peninsula and is known to have ranged to the French Pyrenees, the last clear evidence of its existence there was a skull dating from the 1950s.

REASONS FOR DECLINE Massive clearance of marquis vegetation in the 1940s led to the disappearance of the lynx from much of its range. The decline of rabbits due to myxomatosis and other diseases greatly reduced the available prey. Rapid economic development in Spain led to many dams, highways and railways being built; most scrublands were converted to agriculture. Plantations of pines and eucalypts has resulted in a drastic reduction in potential lynx habitat. Previously hunted for the pelt and as a perceived predator of livestock.

CURRENT THREATS Steel leg traps set for rabbits and foxes are responsible for over half of lynx killed. In the Doñana area many lynx are run over by cars. Only two per cent of the total area of Spain now provides suitable lynx breeding range (Nowell & Jackson, in press).

CONSERVATION PROJECTS Because of the practical problems of establishing reserves large enough to guarantee the survival of lynx, an ecosystem/land-use approach is suggested for conservation strategies. Rodriguez & Delibes (1992) consider that the short-term actions required include: prevention of further habitat loss or fragmentation by setting up protected areas; encouraging the survival of viable populations especially the central population which includes about 70 per cent of the total lynx numbers; management of population by increasing numbers in low density areas, linking adjacent populations by natural corridors or artificial contact (lynx release, insemination), and through reintroduction (southern Spain) and captive breeding. The survival of the species requires consideration when planning large public works and evaluating environmental impacts in lynx areas. A captive breeding centre for the Iberian Lynx was recently opened in the National Park of Doñana. It is hoped that the centre will play an important role in protecting the limited gene pool of this species as well as provide detailed information of the animal's biology.

The Spanish Government is in the process of developing a national conservation strategy for the Iberian Lynx, with the goal of enabling the lynx to occupy as large a range as possible on apermanent basis (Nowell & Jackson, in press).

SPECIAL FEATURES The most threatened European carnivore. The Iberian Lynx looks like a smaller version of the Eurasian Lynx Lynx lynx, being only about half its size.

REFERENCES

Anon. 1993. Iberian Lynx Breeding Centre opened. IUCN/SSC Captive Breeding Specialist Group News. 4(2): pp.15-.

Chazel, L. 1991. European lynx specialists confer. Cat News. 14: 2-8.

Blanco, J. C. and González, J. L. (eds). 1992. Libro Rojo de los Vertebrados de España. ICONA, Madrid. 653-656 (in Spanish).

Nowak, R.M. 1991. Walker's Mammals of the World. 5th ed. Vol.2. John Hopkins University Press, London. pp.1197-.

Rodriguez, A. & Delibes, M. 1992. Current range and status of the Iberian lynx Felis pardina Temminck, 1824 in Spain. Biological Conservation. 61: 189-196.

Nowell, K. & Jackson, P. (in press). Wild cats: Status Report and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group. IUCN, Gland.


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