This story appears in the May 2010 issue of National Geographic magazine.
Its golden eyes have shone across Mediterranean lands for a million years. But the 25-pound Iberian lynx, icon of Spain and Portugal, is on shaky turf. Its wild count is about 225 animals, up from 100 a decade ago but far too low for long-term survival. Hunting, road kills, and habitat loss have sped the plunge of Lynx pardinus, as has near-total dietary reliance on rabbits— themselves overhunted and slammed by disease. Only two breeding populations remain, based in protected areas in Spain. With pledges of $35 million for conservation, the Lynx Life group is boosting rabbit numbers, moving cats to underused haunts, and safeguarding prey-friendly habitat. In the near future, it hopes to release captive-bred lynx into the wild. For now, says Lynx Life director Miguel Angel Simón, improving life for wild lynx on wild land is the best strategy.