Iberian lynx Classe - Mammalia (Mammals) Order - Carnivora (Carnivores) Family - Felidae (Felines) Genus - Lynx Species - Lynx pardinus Common names - Iberian Lynx (in portuguese: lince-ibérico, liberne, gato-cravo)
Measurements - Body length 80-110 cm;Weight 10 to 13 Kg.
Description - Feline with black spots over a brownish-yellow coat and a short tail with black tip. Its ears have brush like hairs in the extremities and it bears a set of long chin whiskers which progressively grow through time. These two characteristics easily distinguish this species. Its limbs are robust, the posterior are the longest ones, giving the animal a great impulsion capacity, while the front ones, used to capture prey, are shorter and stronger.
Distribution - The Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) is a rare species, native to the Iberian Peninsula. During the XX century it suffered a pronounced decline in all its distribution area. Nowadays only two reproductive populations are known to exist in the wild, both of them in Spain: in Sierra Morena Oriental, within the region of the Parque Natural de la Sierra de Andújar, and in south Andalusia, within the Doñana area, with an estimated population of less than 200 individuals.
Ecology - Carnivore mainly crepuscular and nocturnal. It feeds almost exclusively on wild rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus), however, sometimes it hunts rodents, birds and young cervideae. Its preferential habitats are the Mediterranean woods and scrublands, which offer suitable shelter. Nevertheless it also uses open areas where it can easily hunt rabbits, its main prey.
Reproduction - Mating occurs between January and March, and after a gestation period which goes from 63 to 74 days, 1 to 4 cubs are born. Most of the times only 2 or 3 cubs are born, which get only motherly care for about one year. By this time they become independent and leave the family group.
Conservation status - The Iberian lynx is currently the world’s most threatened feline, being classified as Critically Endangered (CR) by the portuguese and spanish red data books as well as by the IUCN's Red List on a global level. Only species that face an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild hold this status. This feline is also protected by the Bern Convention (Annex II) and by the Convention which regulates Wild Species Trade (CITES – Annex I-A), being considered by the Habitats Directive as a high priority species.
Threats and Evolution of the species' population in Portugal - The main threats to the survival of Iberian lynx populations are the reduction and fragmentation of adequate habitat, the decrease of wild rabbitpopulations and non-natural mortality. The regression of this species within Portugal started during the “wheat campaign” back in the decades of 1930-40, when its habitat suffered a large reduction. Later, myxomatosis and viral hemorrhagic disease were responsible for a drastic decrease of wild rabbit populations. Since the 1970´s, the plantation of large areas of pine and eucalyptus forest for wood production reduced Iberian lynx habitats. Afterwards, the construction of large scale infra-structures, such as dams, and the expansion of road networks, transformed areas with suitable habitat into totally inappropriate zones for this species’ survival. Since then, the populations of Iberian lynx never recovered and by the 1980`s conservationists feared that there were less than 50 individuals in the wild in Portugal. Nowadays, the presence of potential habitat in some areas and reports of sporadic sightings, indicate the possible existence of disperse individuals, mainly in the southern bordering regions, though the last confirmed record refers to 2001, precisely in the Moura/Barrancos Site.