How this golden-eyed feline became the biggest comeback in cat conservation

An all-out effort to breed the Iberian lynx in captivity has allowed the animals to rebound throughout their native Spain and Portugal.

A lynx emerges from the trees in Sierra de Andújar Natural Park, a species stronghold in southern Spain. Fondly dubbed the Iberian jewel, lynx live in five isolated populations across the Iberian Peninsula’s Mediterranean scrublands.

In just 20 years, the Iberian lynx has gone from the world’s most endangered feline to the greatest triumph in cat conservation.

In 2002 fewer than a hundred of these bobtailed, golden-eyed predators slunk through the Mediterranean scrublands of the Iberian Peninsula. Since then, the population has grown tenfold, with at least 1,100 animals scattered across Spain and Portugal.

The dramatic turnaround is the result of the all-out effort to breed the cats in captivity, the lynx’s status as a natural treasure, and the animal’s innate scrappiness, which has surprised even conservationists.

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