IBERIAN LYNX

The return of the prince

Protecting the lynx

The most endangered feline on the planet

The Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) – endemic to the Iberian Peninsula – is the rarest feline in the world. It has been driven to the brink of extinction for a variety of reasons, with fewer than 100 individuals remaining at the beginning of the 20th century, in just two isolated populations.

Our grandparents and great-great-grandparents used to say that “el gato (‘the cat’) used to prowl the fields and olive groves… he hunted where there were plenty of rabbits, and foxes steered clear of his territory. But we have seen no trace of him for years…”

Thanks to conservation and captive breeding programmes, lynx populations have stabilised and recovered in parts of Andalusia, Extremadura, Castilla-La Mancha and Portugal.

Flagship species

Guardian of biodiversity in the Mediterranean habitat

The Iberian lynx is an emblematic species in a unique ecosystem in the world: the Mediterranean landscape. Many of the actions undertaken for its conservation bring benefits to many other species, directly or indirectly. In this way, the conservation of the Iberian lynx contributes to the conservation of the biodiversity associated with this ecosystem.

The presence of the lynx is an indicator of a healthy habitat. The Iberian lynx plays a fundamental role in this ecosystem as an apex predator. If there is no lynx, their role in the ecosystem is not filled by any other species. Therefore, the disappearance of the Iberian lynx would be an irreplaceable loss for biodiversity worldwide .

The lynx in Spain

Areas of conservation

We have been working for more than 20 years on projects for the conservation, recovery and reintroduction of the Iberian lynx in different regions of the Iberian Peninsula, including Andalusia, Extremadura and Castilla-La Mancha. We are also making progress on preliminary studies prior to a potential reintroduction in other areas where the species has historically been present, such as Catalonia and Aragon.

6 projects in Andalusia and Extremadura

3 projects in Castilla y León

1 project in Catalonia and Aragon

9 field specialists

Captive breeding and species protection programmes are gradually succeeding in recovering the lynx population in Spain.

The problem

No territory, no food

What were the main causes that drove the Iberian lynx to the brink of extinction? The main causes were human: direct persecution, the destruction and transformation of its habitat and the decline of rabbit populations. In combination, these factors have driven the species to extinction in most of the areas where it used to live.

Today, the lynx is not yet out of danger.

Main threats today
  • Scarcity of rabbits

  • Accidents related to infrastructures: mainly road kill.

  • Diseases and low genetic variability
  • Direct persecution: poisoning, shooting, and trapping.

The European rabbit

There is no lynx without it

The lynx is a consummate hunter, but its diet is based on a single prey, the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus): a key species that is vital for the survival of the lynx and for safeguarding the biodiversity of the Mediterranean ecosystem.

Over the last 70 years, rabbit populations have plummeted throughout the Iberian Peninsula due to a series of viral diseases. This has had a direct impact on other species, including the Iberian lynx. For this reason, a large part of our projects have focused on recovering wild rabbit populations as the staple diet of the lynx and other emblematic species of the Mediterranean landscape.

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HOW WE DID IT

On the front line, in alliance with the Iberian lynx

The recovery of the Iberian lynx has been made possible by conservation programmes developed in coordination with public and private institutions, with the collaboration of all those involved: public administrations, landowners and land managers, hunters, conservation organisations, scientists… we have all worked together to save the species from extinction.

CBD-Habitat has been working for the recovery of the Iberian lynx since 1999, when we signed the first collaboration agreements with estates where the last of the lynx were found.

Since then we have not stopped working to protect this species and its habitat. We work directly in the field, in close collaboration with all other stakeholders. We mainly focus on monitoring and surveillance, along with habitat management activities to promote biodiversity and raise awareness among the local population. Our work has allowed us to acquire a wealth of experience that we have been able to apply in new territories as the species has recovered.

Conservation programmes

Iberian lynx protection projects are carried out on the ground by conservation organisations. We work together with public administrations and the scientific community, in collaboration with local stakeholders that live with the lynx: landowners, hunters, livestock farmers and the general population. One of our most effective tools are the land stewardship agreements with the private landholdings where the lynxes live.

CBD-Habitat is currently working on the following Iberian lynx conservation projects:

The future of the lynx

The population of lynx in the Iberian Peninsula is not yet self-sustaining, nor is it out of danger. We must strengthen the links between existing populations and work towards the creation of new populations. It is vital that we continue to protect them in areas where they have recovered, and that we continue to pursue new areas of expansion and linkages.

The challenge is enormous: the recovery of the Iberian lynx has only just begun.

Join us on the front line

Join our adventure! Let’s build together the future of one of the most beautiful species of our world.

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Who helps us

Thank you for your
support

Recovery of the Iberian lynx has been made possible by public funding and recovery programmes promoted by public institutions in Europe and Spain, implemented on the ground by organisations such as CBD-Habitat.

The protection of the lynx requires the combined efforts of the public and private sectors, in coordination with all stakeholders involved in the recovery of the species.

Without these programmes, the Iberian lynx would once again find itself in a situation of enormous vulnerability.