Iberian lynx numbers cross elusive milestone of 1,000 individuals with collaborative conservation efforts

Posted on 28 May 2021

  • Population of world’s most endangered feline species increases tenfold in 20 years to 1,111 in 2020 as per latest census
  • Number of reproductive females, figure marking the viability of the species, increases from 27 in 2002 to 239 in 2020
  • Continued conservation efforts critical to reach long-term goal of viable and safe population of at least 3,000 to 3,500 individuals
Madrid, 28 May 2021 - The wild Iberian lynx population has increased tenfold in the last 20 years, from 94 individuals in 2002 to 1,111 lynxes in 2020 according to the Iberian lynx census results published today. Of these, 239 are reproductive females (up from 27 in 2002), an important indicator of the viability of the species.

Welcoming the news, Juan Carlos del Olmo, CEO, WWF-Spain said: “This is a great conservation success in Spain and worldwide. Few species escape from such a critical situation as the Iberian lynx faced. The news today is the result of the tireless and collective work of more than 20 administrations and organizations, as well as many individuals. WWF is proud to have contributed to these efforts through our work over the last 20 years.”

“However, despite the celebratory mood today, we have to remember that the Lynx is not out of danger. To ensure a viable and safe population, we must increase today’s wild Lynx population by threefold by 2040. To do so, we need to continue working intensely to eradicate threats such as accidental killings and to legally prosecute deaths caused by shooting, snares or traps that still result in an irreparable loss of lynx every year", Del Olmo added.

According to WWF estimates, and assessments by several experts, Iberian lynx numbers would need to reach 3,000 - 3,500 individuals including around 750 reproductive females, to be eligible to be considered as being in a ‘favourable State of Conservation’ according to European regulations. Continued conservation efforts that address threats such as illegal killing, support the recovery of decimated rabbit populations, and help create new Lynx populations and connect existing ones, are critical to reach such a goal by 2040.  

WWF-Spain has been working on the conservation of the Iberian lynx since its establishment over 50 years ago. At the end of the 90s, WWF began to work directly on the ground through custody agreements with hunting estates in Sierra Morena, Montes de Toledo and Doñana, home of the last lynxes at the time. WWF-Spain has also been working to raise awareness on the situation of the Iberian lynx, participating in the national census in 2002 and working with different regional and European administrations and sectors to coordinate efforts.

WWF-Spain is also a partner of the European Life projects to support Lynx conservation efforts, maintaining custody agreements with 18 estates that cover more than 25,000 ha including 12 territories of females with cubs, and leading efforts to improve habitats and rabbit populations. It also runs citizen science platforms and tools, such as territoriolince.es.  

For more information, please contact:
WWF International Media Team news@wwfint.org

Notes to editors:
The Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) is classified by the World Union for the Nature (IUCN) as the world’s most endangered feline species (Nowell & Jackson, 1996). It is an endemic species of the Iberian Peninsula, smaller than the Eurasian lynx and adapted to the particular conditions of the peninsula and particularly to its main prey, the wild rabbit. Once distributed all over the peninsula during the last century, its population declined due to hunting and poaching and because of a disease that affected wild rabbits that reduced its population to less than 10%.
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