The Iberian Lynx (Lynx pardinus, sometimes Felis pardina) – sometimes referred to as the Spanish Lynx. It used to be often miss-classified as a subspecies of the Eurasian Lynx, but it is now regarded as a separate species. While the Eurasian Lynx bears rather pallid markings, the Iberian Lynx has distinctive, leopard-like spots. The Iberian Lynx is smaller than its northern relative. It does not usually hunt animals larger than hares and rabbits as its main prey. However, as the population of these small mammals has declined, the Iberian Lynx is often forced to attack young deer or sheep.
This lynx was once distributed over the entire Iberian Peninsula. It is now restricted to very small areas, with breeding only confirmed in two areas of southern Spain. Iberian Lynx prefer a heterogeneous environment of open grassland mixed with shrubs and trees.
The Iberian Lynx is critically endangered, and is the world’s most threatened species of cat. Studies conducted in March 2005 have estimated the number of surviving lynx to be as few as 100. This is down from about 1,000 a decade ago. If it dies out now, it would be the first big cat to do so since the extinction of the Saber-toothed tiger. Those lynx that remain are scattered in tiny reservations. There have been no sightings in Portugal since 2001 (approx) and the official Portuguese count is zero.
Lynx and their habitat are fully protected and are no longer legally hunted. Their critical status is mainly due to road casualties, poaching, and loss of habitat. In addition, its prey population of rabbits is declining due to diseases like myxomatosis and haemorrhagic pneumonia.
However, there is still hope of survival for the Iberian Lynx. On March 29, , the birth of three cubs, the first born in captivity, was announced. Four more cubs have been born in 2006. These recent births seem to open up the prospect of a future reintroduction of the species to parts of its former habitat where it has disappeared. Before any cats are released to the wild, conservation efforts will have to be increased in order to ensure survival of the species.