Lynxes are now more endangered than tigers
Michael McCarthy, formerly the Independent’s longstanding Environment Editor, now its Environment Columnist, is one of Britain’s leading writers on the environment and the natural world. He has won a string of awards for his work, including Environment Journalist of the Year (three times) and Specialist Writer of the Year in the British Press Awards in 2001. In 2007 he was awarded the Medal of the RSPB for “Outstanding Services to Conservation,” in 2010 he was awarded the Silver Medal of the Zoological Society of London, and in 2011 the Dilys Breeze Medal of the British Trust for Ornithology. In 2009 McCarthy published Say Goodbye To The Cuckoo (John Murray), a study of Britain’s declining migrant birds.
Friday 12 November 1999
At simultaneous press conferences in Madrid, London and Brussels, WWF said the animal would become extinct unless the Spanish government set aside more protected areas. Its population has crashed from 1,100 individuals to fewer than 600 in 10 years.
The Iberian lynx, which is found only in Spain and Portugal, is now Europe's equivalent of the tiger, WWF said, but is even more critically endangered as there are 5,000 tigers in captivity to back the 5,000 left in the wild, but there are only four captive lynxes, all females.
The lynx population, which once stretched throughout Spain, is now reduced to a few fragmented groups that are threatened by in-breeding, disease, hunting, development projects and chance accidents such as being hit by cars.
Lynxes have been decimated by loss of their preferred scrubland habitat, often by European Union-funded development projects, and by the loss of their favourite prey, rabbits, whichhave declined by 95 per cent in Spain because of disease.
The lynx can be saved, WWF said, but only if Spain's proposed network of protected sites under the EU wildlife law, the Habitats Directive, is widened so that small populations are not left isolated.
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