Spain’s Iberian Lynx is the world’s most endangered species of felines. Just 20 years ago, the animal was at risk of becoming the first big cat to become extinct after the saber-tooth tiger died out 10,000 years ago.
With that said, conservation efforts have successfully increased the cat’s numbers tenfold, with 1,100 Iberian Lynx living in the wild at the end of last year, mostly thanks to a captive breeding program. Compared to a population of less than 100 in 2002, this is a huge improvement.
“The main cause of death for wildlife, certainly in the natural environment, is related to human activities: roadkill, poaching, unwanted encounters,” says Antonio Rivas, the manager of the El Acebuche Iberian Lynx Breeding Centre. “So the further away the wildlife is kept, the less direct contact it has with humans, the better we understand it’ll be”
According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), at the beginning of the 19th century, more than 100,000 Iberian Lynx could be found between Spain and Portugal. But urbanization, hunting, and roadkill reduced that number to one percent today. Thankfully, conservationists are hard at work to recover the population of these majestic big cats.