Highly Endangered Iberian Lynx Cubs Born in Spain

Two Iberian lynx cubs from the captive breeding program investigate a European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), on which their species almost totally relies. Iberian Lynx Cubs Investigate Their Future Prey by http://www.lynxexsitu.es. CC BY 3.0 ES
Two Iberian lynx cubs from the captive breeding program investigate an European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), on which their species almost totally relies. Iberian Lynx Cubs Investigate Their Future Prey (European Rabbit) by http://www.lynxexsitu.es. CC BY 3.0 ES

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.

Click here for the original press release (in Spanish)

Further Reading:

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.

26 Thoughts

  1. Every small step is a step in the right direction, each new life is precious and must be protected. These are the precious youngsters that could be the future of their species. Wonderful blog and it’s always great to be able to share positive stories like these.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I couldn’t have said it any better myself! The lynx cubs themselves can’t know it it, but they may well be the future of their species. It’s positive stories like these that show that reversing species declines is possible, despite the many challenges associated with it :)


    1. That’s really cool! I know they’ve been having trouble with Scottish wild cats hybridizing with domestic cats, and last I heard only pure wild cats deserve protection according to the law (although the two species are almost genetically identical). So I imagine the captive breeding program is one of the few ways to ensure Scottish wild cats stay “pure.”

      Liked by 1 person

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