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There are already 1,111 lynxes in Spain, but the lack of rabbits and the drought continue to threaten them

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The Iberian lynx is recovering apace, after being in clear danger of disappearing, but continues to face serious threats: the progressive decline in rabbit populations, the desertification of the soil and road accidents are the main ones. The lynxes in Spain have more than quintupled in just four decades.

After 40 years of great concern for the conservation of the Iberian lynx, its population has improved, although “You can’t let your guard down”assured Alejandro Rodríguez, a researcher at the Doñana Biological Station (CSIC), who emphasizes that their future depends on the rabbit population.

The Iberian lynx, one of the most threatened felines in the world, shows a great improvement in its populations, with a total of 1,111 specimens between adult or subadult individuals and puppiesaccording to the last census of 2020 facilitated by the Ministry of Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge.

In an interview with Efe, Rodríguez has celebrated the recovery of the number of individuals for 40 years, however he warns that “the future of this animal is not without danger”, although if work continues in the same way, the number of lynxes in the wild should at least quadruple.

The expert has observed that despite the appearance of new factors that alter its well-being -climate change, deterioration of its habitat or new invasive species-, this species has experienced an improvement in the number of individuals in the southwestern area of ​​the Peninsula .

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Rodríguez, who has developed most of his professional career at the Doñana Biological Station delving into the field of conservation biology, has reported that “the number of lynxes could suggest a stability that has never existed before”, since twenty years ago there were barely 200 copies left.

However, despite the good pace that the Iberian lynx has been taking – thanks to citizen awareness and aid granted by the European Commission – the number of individuals is not enough to consider this animal as a “self-sufficient being”.

According to Alejandro Rodríguez, the recovery of the lynx shows signs of relief, and, as the researcher has commented, the growth rate has multiplied by five since twenty years agoand although the positive of the case is the repopulation, it is very difficult to calculate the forecasts for the coming years.

Threats to the conservation of the Iberian lynx

The conservation of the rabbit is one of the conditions «sine qua non of the Iberian lynx»according to the scientist, who recalled that the population was affected forty years ago by two rabbit diseases – myxomatosis in the late 1950s and early 1960s and rabbit haemorrhagic disease in the 1980s–».

Without precise studies on the matter, “the importance of wild rabbits in the behavior, survival and reproduction of the lynx cannot be understood, and whose dependence is associated with biological traits such as their size or energy expenditure,” he indicated.

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Although the rabbit population is important for its preservation, there have been other problems that have caused damage in the past, such as poaching (a problem that is currently more overcome due to citizen awareness) and the increase in the number of abuses compared to other years.

Regarding other threats, the investigator has cited the lack of green grassa consequence of dry seasons, and which is essential for the conservation of rabbits, changes in land use that proliferate in the rural world, the arrival of new pathogens and invasive species and atmospheric warming, which directly affects plants .

The lynxes leave the maternal nucleus to reproduce and then comes the “dispersion” of the animal, which consists of exploring around it a comfortable area to live, which can be both short distances and kilometric distances.

The last years the The distribution area has grown especially in areas of Castilla-La Mancha -east of Nacional 4, around Castellar de Santiago and Viso del Marqués-, and also in important centers of Andalusia -Huelva, Sierra Morena and north of the Guadalquivir-, the researcher has concluded.

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Environment section contact: crisisclimatica@prensaiberica.es

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