First captive-bred birth of Iberian lynx

Posted on 30 March 2005

WWF is celebrating the first-ever captive-bred birth of Iberian lynx, one of the world's most threatened cat species.
Madrid, Spain – WWF is celebrating with Saliega and Garfio, the parents of three Iberian lynx cubs born in a government-sponsored captive breeding programme in Spain. 
According to wildlife officials at the El Acebuche captive breeding centre in the Doñana National Park, the home of one of the two last remaining populations of wild Iberian lynx, this is the first successful birth of the endangered cat species in captivity. 
“We are extremely happy,” said Jesús Cobo, coordinator of WWF-Spain’s lynx conservation programme. “This is without a doubt an historical milestone in the conservation of one of the world’s most threatened cats.” 
According to the most recent comprehensive survey conducted in 2004 by the Spanish government, only two isolated breeding populations of Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) remain in southern Spain, totaling about 100 animals, with only 25 breeding females. As recently as two years ago, there were believed to have been at least 160 lynx. 
Because of declining lynx numbers, an agreement was signed in 2003 by the Spanish Environment Ministry and the local Andalusian Environment Council to collaborate on lynx conservation in breeding. 
“Captive breeding is one tool to ensure the future of the lynx, but the species in not out of danger yet,” Cobo added. “There are other measures that need to be done to save the lynx in the wild.” 
WWF is renewing its call to limit road traffic in the Doñana National Park region, where several lynx have been killed over the past few years. Road accidents have become the primary cause of lynx mortality rates. Another has been habitat destruction and a drop in rabbit populations, the lynx’s main prey. It is thought that between 1960 and 1990 the Iberian lynx suffered an 80 per cent loss in its range. This has fragmented the lynx into tiny communities, which raises fears for its genetic viability and resistance to disease. 
WWF also believes that along with conserving habitat and protecting the rabbit population, an efficient captive breeding programme is needed to prevent the Iberian lynx from becoming extinct. 
“In addition to providing a vital gene bank for the survival of the species, captive lynxes will be needed to re-colonize the many areas where populations have collapsed,” Cobo said. 
• There are only two confirmed small and isolated breeding populations of the Iberian lynx, both in southern Spain — Doñana National Park and Sierra de Andujar Natural Park. The two captive parents, Saliega  and Garfio, were both captured from the Sierra de Andujar Natural Park several years ago. 
• The Iberian lynx is a relative species of the Eurasian lynx, the Canada lynx and the North American bobcat. It is approximately the same size as the Canada lynx but about half the size of the Eurasian lynx, which survives in central and eastern Europe. 
• A mother lynx in the wild may carry its cubs between up to twelve homes, to avoid predation. Sexual maturity of a female lynx starts at three years of age. Scientists were surprised by the birth of the lynx cubs in captivity as their mother is only two-years old. 
For further information:
Luis Suárez, Head, Species Programme
Tel: +34 91 354 05 78
An female Iberian lynx resting in Spain's Doñana National Park.
© WWF/WWF-Spain/Luis Suárez