Efforts to save the Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus), the most endangered wild felid in the world, may be paying off. According to this press release, a female lynx named Kiowa was recently photographed with three cubs in Spain’s Sierra Morena mountains.
This is significant for several reasons. First of all, the Iberian lynx might be closer to extinction than any other cat. Once inhabiting the entire Iberian Peninsula, by 2002 they were reduced to just 227 individuals in two isolated populations. But since the mid-1990s conservationists have been doing all they can to reverse the lynx’s decline (Hunter, 2016). They have been attempting to bolster European rabbit numbers, protect threatened lynx habitat, reduce human-caused mortality, and expand the cat’s range (Rodríguez & Calzada, 2015). They have also been carrying out an impressive captive breeding program (Hunter, 2016; Rodríguez & Calzada, 2015).
Kiowa is one of the individuals who came from the captive breeding program. The fact that she is now reproducing in the wild serves as an indication of the value of that initiative. In addition, I first learned of this story on the IUCN Cat Specialist Group’s Facebook page. It was accompanied by the following note: “Fantastic news: reproduction in all reintroduced Iberian lynx populations confirmed! 29 cubs were born in the four reintroduction cites.”
As the above quotation indicates, conservationists have been reintroducing Iberian lynx in multiple locations in order to expand the species’ range (Hunter, 2016). Having breeding females in all of these re-established populations is an important step towards safeguarding the lynx’s future. If these groups can be connected to one another via biological corridors, it will help to increase their genetic fitness and ability to recover from stochastic events (e.g. disasters, disease outbreaks, climate change effects, etc.).
The Iberian lynx is still severely threatened. But small successes, like Kiowa’s new litter, offer hope for the future. They also show that when we humans commit to strategic action, we can have positive effects on the environment.
Rodríguez, A. & Calzada, J. (2015). Lynx pardinus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T12520A50655794. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2015-2.RLTS.T12520A50655794.en.