Iberian Lynx - Threats
Once regarded both as an attractive hunting trophy and as a vermin
Rabbits form the main prey of the Iberian lynx. Epidemics, such as myxamatosis and the haemorrhagic disease, have affected rabbit populations over the years, which has in turn affected the Iberian lynx population. WWF is calling the spanish authorities to escalate efforts to recover rabbit populations.
The construction of high speed roads and highways, splitting up the Lynx habitat, is another of the main threats for this wild cat. 2014 was a black year: 22 animals died under the wheels of a car. A very high number, given the small population of the species. After a WWF campaign, the spanish national and regional authorities are starting to take preventive measures on the roads.
Habitat loss and degradation
Infrastructures like roads, dams, railways and other human activities contribute to the loss and fragmentation of the Iberian lynx distribution area, creating barriers between the different populations and obstructing the exchange of individuals among them, which raises fears for its genetic viability and resistance to disease. It is thought that between 1960 and 1990, the Iberian lynx suffered an 80% loss in its range.
Protected areas to stimulate the survival of the lynx
The Spanish government has proposed 72 sites to be included in the Natura2000 network (European Habitat Directive) to conserve the lynx habitat, covering more than 2,750,000 hectares (approximately the surface of the Galicia region).
The relevancy of each area differs from one to the next. WWF-Spain/Adena considers that these areas do not cover all the important habitats for the lynx. In particular, some important corridors have not been included. For this reason, WWF/Adena has compiled a new list of relevant areas and corridors to be included in the Natura2000 network (74 sites with a total surface of 2,7 million hectares).
The Spanish National Hydrological Plan (SNHP) has proposed the construction of dams and other water infrastructures, which will have huge impacts on lynx sitess. The construction of 12 dams (for example La Brena II and Monteagudo) will have negative consequences on already designated Natura2000 sites, which are some of the few remaining protections in place for the survival of the lynx.
Find out more about habitat loss and degradation
Ironically, in the past the species was regarded both as an attractive hunting trophy and as a vermin. Hunters prized its valuable fur and its meat, and although some landowners appreciate its tendency to keep fox and rabbit numbers down, most perceive it as a threat to their game populations. The Iberian lynx was legally protected against hunting from the early 1970s, but they are still the victims of guns, traps and snares, particularly those set for other animals.
Under future climate change conditions, it is unclear if the regions where the lynx currently lives will still be suitable for the species. The current reintroduction programme, which is expanding the lynx’s range to the north, could improve its resilience to climate change.