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Threats of the Iberian lynx

The Iberian lynx is the most threatened feline in the planet, for many reasons. In the first place, this is a specialist of habitat and prey, by which alterations of these affect very negatively in their populations. In fact, one of the most important causes that has led to the Iberian lynx to the brink of extinction has been the decline of their main prey, the mountain rabbit, affected by the introduction of two viral diseases: the myxomatosis in the 1950s and the viral haemorrhagic disease of rabbits in the 1980s, provoked a drastic decline superior of the 80 % of its populations. Secondly, the transformation, fragmentation and destruction of their habitat (the Mediterranean mountains), that hosts a high biodiversity and whose alteration also affects the populations of the rabbits. Another threat has also been the death caused by human beings, in an involuntary way, like the outrage, or deliberates, like the use of illegal and not selective technologies or because of the hunting, the poaching, the use of poisons, etc. Other threats to the populations of Iberian lynx that is gaining high relevance in recent years are diseases. The Iberian lynx is a species with a great sanitary risk (they account with very few staff and have a high density of individuals), therefore the appearance of any infectious sprout can disperse with facility and take to the extinction the local population. Joined to the low genetic variability of the lynx, among other negative effects, is associated with a loss of response of the immune system.


The forestal plantations of pines and eucalyptus have been one of the main causes of the destruction of the Iberian lynx’s habitat.

Behind most of the threats that have led to the Iberian lynx to be in this situation is the lack of awareness and sensitization of citizens with this species. From the LIFE project they have been working on disseminating the importance of the species and the benefits that its conservation implies.


The Iberian lynx has a special importance from different points of view:

  1. Within the conservation it is considered an umbrella species, this is, its conservation indirectly implies the protection of their habitat, the Mediterranean forest, and of the less well known species that live inside this type of habitat. This is the annex II of the Habitats Directive (Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992, relative to the conservation of the natural habitats and the wild fauna and flora), where the lynx is considered as a priority species, by what is necessary for their protection the designation of special zones of conservation, the LICs inside the Natura 2000 net, protecting indirectly this way the Mediterranean mount and the associated fauna.
  2. Ecologically, being a large predator carries out a role of controller in the abundance of meso-depredators, like the fox (Vulpes vulpes), the ichneumon (Herpestes ichneumon)... reducing the pressure that exists on their main basic prey, the wild rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), whose role is also very important as main prey of other threaten species like the Imperial Eagle (Aquila adalberti), dispersing seeds, etc. The Iberian lynx help also in the selection of the healthiest specimens.
  3. From the socio-economical point of view, thanks to its presence the sensitization and awareness of the citizens in the protection and conservation of the Mediterranean mount and its biodiversity has been improved. Also, its presence in rural areas, as an endemic species, serves as a touristic attraction, increasing economic income in these areas.
  4. Finally, the Iberian lynx is part of our natural patrimony as well as the historical monuments we have in our cities and towns, reason why we must contribute to its protection and conservation.