The Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) is a wildcat native to the Iberian Peninsula in the southwestern part of Europe. It is an endangered species that have is listed as the second most endangered cat on the IUCN Red List.
During the 20th century, its population declined due to poaching, fragmentation of suitable habitat, and overhunting. Another reason the Iberian lynx population declined is due to an epidemic that stuck its main prey species.
The main prey, which is the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), was dealt a fatal blow by rabbit haemorrhagic disease and myxomatosis.
During the 21st century, the Iberian lynx was endangered and was close to extinction. Only about 100 or fewer individuals survived in two different isolated sub-populations in Andalusia.
In 2002, conservational measures were made to improve the population. The conservational measures include restocking of rabbits, improving habitat, and monitoring & re-introducing Iberian lynxes.
By 2012, thanks to the help of the conservational measure, the population spiked up, reaching a number of 326 individuals. Today, we have about 404 Iberian lynxes in the peninsula.
It has other names such as Spanish lynx and Pardel lynx. Iberian lynx are known to be monotypic species and are assumed to have evolved from Lynx issiodorensis.
The Iberian lynx is known to possess short, tawny to bright yellowish coloured spotted fur. Spots on its fur vary in size and shape, either from elongated to round. They are arranged in a line, and it also decreases in size from the back to the sides.
It has a small head with ruff and tufted ears. It possesses a short body with a short tail and long legs. Head plus body length of males is 29.4 to 32.3 in (74.7 to 82 cm) with a 4.9 to 6.3 in (12.5 to 16 cm) long tail and weighs about 15 to 35 lb (7 to 15.9 kg).
Females have smaller bodies with a head to body length of approximately 26.9 to 30.5 in (68.2 to 77.5 cm), and weighs about 20 to 22 lb (9.2 to 10 kg).
During the late Holocene and Pleistocene era, the Iberian lynx had a wide range of habitat as indicated by the fossil remains.
There were five lynx remains that were found in Arene Canadide in northern Italy, and dated to about 18,620 to 24,820 before present. One particular specimen was found in Cabias cave in southern France and was radiocarbon dated to 3780±90 before the present.
The Iberian lynx inhabits heterogeneous environments that contain open grassland mixed with dense shrubs such as juniper, mastic, and strawberry & trees such as cork oak and holm oak. It is mostly restricted to mountain crowded areas.
Ecology and behaviour
The Iberian lynx marks its territory by using its scratch marks on tree barks, scat, and urine to create boundaries. Adult Iberian lynx make stable home ranges for many years.
Several camera surveys in the eastern part of the Sierra Morena Mountains from 1999 to 2008 once caught six females’ home ranges of 2.0 to 2.5 sq mi (5.2 to 6.6 km2). It also revealed four males’ home ranges of 4.6 to 4.7 sq mi (11.8 to 12.2 km2).
Hunting and diet
The Iberian lynx’s main prey is the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), which it relies on for the bulk of its diet. Other prey includes red-legged partridge, wild ungulates, ducks, and some small rodents around its territory.
It also preys on larger animals such as a roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), young fallow deer (Damadama), and mouflon (Ovis Orientalis).
A male will consume one rabbit per day for its daily diet while a female raising her kittens will consume at least three per day. The Iberian lynx adaptability is very low—it still relies heavily on rabbits, which is about 75% of its food diet.
Its prey competitors include Egyptian mongoose, red fox (Vulpes vulpes), and European wildcat (Felis silvestris). It often preys on smaller carnivores such as the common genet (Genetta genetta), red fox, and Egyptian mongoose.
The Iberian lynx is a solitary animal and also hunt alone. It preys on animals by stalking, lying in wait for the animal to get closer before it pounces and kills its prey.
At the beginning of the mating season, the females go in search of a male outside her territory. The average gestation periods last for about two months, andafter that, the kittens are born. Offsprings are born twice in a cycle, one in March or April and the other in September or October.
An average litter consists of two to three kittens, but rare cases have been recorded where a litter contained four, five,or even one kittens. An average kitten weighs 7.1 to 8.8 oz (200 to 250 grams).
Kittens at 7 – 10 months old become independent but will stay with the mother till 20 months old. The availability of prey is a significant factor that influences the survival of the young. The age of sexual maturity for both males and females is one year.
At 30 to 60 days, siblings will exhibit violent intent towards each other, sometimes reaching 45 days. Sometimes kittens will fight their siblings to death.
This aggression is said to be the result of a change in hormone when a kitten stops taking its mother milk and start eating meat. Other sources believe it to be instinct, that is, “Survival of the Fittest.”
Both genders don’t breed until they acquire their territory. They don’t mind waitingfor the resident animal to die before moving in. Iberian lynx are known to live up to 13 years.
- Killed by automobiles
- Killed by traps set for other animals
- Direct persecution
- Illegal hunting
- Destruction of its habitat due to industrial and agricultural development
- Change in terrain from native Mediterranean forest to plantations with no undergrowth