Threats for the Iberian lynx

 

 

The Iberian lynx is the world's most endangered cat, due to different reasons. Firstly, it is a specialist of prey and habitat, so changes in them negatively affect their populations. In fact, one of the most important causes that led the Iberian lynx on the brink of extinction has been the decline of its main prey, the wild rabbit, which was affected by the introduction of two viral diseases: myxomatosis in the 50's and rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD) in the 80's. These diseases caused a drastic drop over 80% of wild rabbit populations. Second, the transformation, fragmentation ( and destruction of their habitatMediterranean forest), which contains a high biodiversity and whose alteration also affects wild rabbit populations. In addition, another threat has been caused human-related mortality, however unwittingly or intentional, such as illegal techniques and non-selective hunting, poaching, use of poisons, etc. Another threat to lynx populations that is gaining importance in recent years are diseases. The Iberian lynx is a species with a high health risk (with few effective and have a high density of individuals), so the appearance of any disease outbreak can spread easily and lead to the extinction of local populations. This is coupled with low genetic variability, which, among other negative effects, is associated with a loss of immune system response.

Forestry plantations of pines and eucaliptus are one the main causes of habitat destruction for the Iberian lynx.

 

Behind most of the abovementioned threats is the lack of awareness citizens with this species. The LIFE project has spent are more than nine years in spreading the importance of the species, and the benefits associated with their conservation. The Iberian lynx is particularly important from various points of view:
 
a) Within conservation is considered an umbrella species, its conservation indirectly implies the protection of their habitat, the Mediterranean forest, and species that are in turn within this habitat less known. This is in Annex II of the Habitats Directive (Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora), which is considered as the Iberian lynx priority species, so it is necessary to protect the designation of special areas of conservation, SACs within the Natura 2000 network, thus indirectly protecting the Mediterranean forest and associated fauna.
 
b) Ecologically, being a large predator exerts a driver in the abundance of mesodepredadores, as the fox (Vulpes vulpes), the mongoose (Herpestes ichneumon), ... decreasing the pressure that exists on the main prey base, the rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), whose role is very important as basic prey of other species are also threatened as the imperial eagle (Aquila adalberti) and dispersing seeds, etc ... In addition to the Iberian lynx help in the selection of healthier individuals.
 
c) From a socio-economic point of view as , due to its presence has improved sensitivity and awareness of citizens in the protection and conservation of Mediterranean forest and its biodiversity. Also, their presence in rural areas, being an endemic species, serves as attractive tourism, increasing incomes in these areas.
 
d) Finally, the Iberian lynx is part of our natural heritage as well as historical monuments we have in our cities and towns, so that we should contribute to their protection and conservation.
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