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The World's Most Endangered Feline

Updated on November 10, 2017
Breelyn Sirk profile image

Breelyn is a vet tech student and mom to an almost 3 year old girl. She loves animals, plants, and gaming. Her current obsession is Shopkins

Adorable Iberian Lynx Kittens

Spains Beloved Lynx

Mostly, an image of a big lion or a tiny stray kitten will come to one's mind when they hear the word cat. That is not true in Spain, since they have a national feline figure: the Iberian Lynx. Of the 38 different types of cats out there, 31 of them have the definition of a "small cat." Some of those species include the 3 separate species of lynx, the fishing cat, and the American Bobcat. The Iberian Lynx, however, is one of the more well known, but also one of the most in danger of disappearing from Earth. It almost faced extinction at the beginning of the 21st century; the population was down to only 100 individuals. But the love that Spain has for this shy feline has kept conservation efforts and the species alive.

A Family In Need of Help

An Iberian Lynx mother with her cubs. Find out how you can help save future lynx families like this one in this article.
An Iberian Lynx mother with her cubs. Find out how you can help save future lynx families like this one in this article.

Beards Have Always Been In For Iberian Lynx's

The long and distinguishable beard of an Iberian Lynx
The long and distinguishable beard of an Iberian Lynx

What does an Iberian Lynx look like ?

Lynx Pardinus is between 22-29 lbs with a thick, yellowish coat with deep grey and black spots. The reason this group of felines was given this name is a tribute to the Indo European word for brightness, likely coming from the way there are eyes are luminous and reflective. The latin term "pardinus" is an adjective that means "panther-like." It may have gotten that name for its appearance, with the dark spotted pattern that is similar to that of some panthers. The most noticeable feature, however, is its beard like fur around its chin and neck. It also has distinguishable black ear tufts. Although at first glance it looks very similar to its close relative, the Bobcat, there are many differences.. Besides the different geographic range, the Iberian Lynx also has longer legs than the Bobcat. Its more slender jaw gives it a powerful bite force as well.

Iberian Lynx Cubs

A typical litter of three cubs, but the odds unfortunately are that only two will make it to adulthood.
A typical litter of three cubs, but the odds unfortunately are that only two will make it to adulthood.

Territory and Offspring

One excellent behavioral feature is the female lynxes dedication to being a responsible mother. She will only produce offspring once she has secured her own territory. Both male and females have a region size of 3 to 7 sq km. The areas are almost always separate although they will, of course, overlap during mating season. A litter size is 2 to 3, though it is uncommon for more than 2 to survive past being weaned. A mother lynx must catch three wild rabbits a day to feed herself and her cubs, all the while trying to keep her babies safe and out of the elements. Her children will stay with her until they are about ten months old.

Hare Hunters

An Iberian Lynx cub carrying its the staple part of its diet : the European Rabbit
An Iberian Lynx cub carrying its the staple part of its diet : the European Rabbit

How It Became Endangered

The Spanish Lynx is very stealthy as well, unfortunately, that is one of the reasons why capturing them to start a breeding program has been such a challenge. The need for such a program came when the population declined to a dangerous level. The main being the sudden dying off of their main prey. A few years ago, the rodent population of Spain got hit by a nasty disease that killed off a large number, then bad luck struck again in the form of pneumonia, and whatever rabbits that survived the hare disease died. This series of events left the Iberian Lynx to survive the harsh winters with very little of their prey left.

As it is with almost every endangered species, man has also played a role in the decline of the Iberian Lynx. With the rising number of eucalyptus plantations taking over their natural habitat, this has caused the lynxes to try and den elsewhere. The problem is that "elsewhere" also is filled with highways that cause many lynx deaths every year. Poaching is one problem that has gone down with stricter law enforcement, although the impact it had on the population in the past, directly affects the number of lynxes alive today. If there had not been poachers out for the beautiful coats, the species would not be in such a decline.

How You Can Help Save The Iberian Lynx

Since they luckily do well in captivity, scientists have been able to increase the numbers by reintroducing 176 lynxes' since 2010. There are also efforts by nonprofit groups who are trying to breed and bring the Iberian Lynxes back into Portugal, where they once roamed in abundance. It is efforts like these that can hopefully keep this spotted species from going extinct. If you would like to see an Iberian Lynx in person, you can observe them at the Jerez Zoo, the Lisbon zoo, and since last year at the Madrid zoo. Find out more at http://zoomadrid.com/.

Spreading the word and knowledge of this sadly rare creature always helps. But if you would like to contribute further to the cause, check out https://gifts.worldwildlife.org/gift-center/gifts/Species-Adoptions/Lynx.aspx?sc=AWY1705OQ18316A01275RX&_ga=2.264497359.1923401352.1506458289-1863645727.1506458289 , where you can symbolically adopt a lynx. You will receive an adorable 11" lynx stuffed animal as well as a gift bag if you have someone special in mind to give it to.

What is your Favorite Small Cat ?

What is your Favorite Small Feline ?

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    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 4 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      The Iberian lynx is beautiful. Thank you for sharing the information about the animal. I was sad to read that humans have played a role in the population decline of the lynx. This seems to be true for a long list of mammals. It's such a shame.