A Lifeline for the Iberian Lynx

Not since the time of the sabertooth has a feline species gone extinct. Earth’s most endangered cat could be next.

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.