World's Rarest Cat, the Iberian Lynx, on Brink of Extinction

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PARIS - Within 50 years, climate change will probably wipe out the world's most endangered feline, the Iberian lynx, even if the world meets its target for curbing carbon emissions, biologists said on Sunday.

The gloomy forecast, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, says that without a dramatic shift in conservative strategy, the charismatic little wildcat seems doomed.

The lynx -- Latin name Lynx pardinus -- grows to about a metre (3.25 feet) in length, weighs up to 15 kilos (33 pounds), and is characterised by its spotted beige fur, pale yellow eyes and tufted ears and cheeks. Only around 250 of the animals live in the wild, holed up in two regions in southern Spain, the Sierra Morena and the Donana National Park, according to estimates published last year.

In just half a century, its range has shrunk from 40,600 square kilometres (15,600 square miles) to 1,200 sq. km. (463 square miles), driven by efforts to wipe out the rabbit, its main food, as well as poaching and fragmentation of its grassland-and-forest mixed habitat.

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The new study, led by Miguel Araujo of the National Museum of Natural Sciences in Madrid, models the impact of rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns on habitat, rabbits and lynxes. On current trends, the changes will occur too fast for the lynx to adapt, it suggests.

"Climate change is predicted to have a rapid and severe negative influence on Iberian lynx abundance, exceeding its ability to adapt or disperse to more climatically favourable regions where prey densities are sufficient to support viable populations," says the study.

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"We estimate time to extinction to be less than 50 years, even with rapid and deep global cuts to anthropogenic [man-made] greenhouse-gas emissions," it said, referring to stabilising atmospheric carbon-dioxide levels to 450 parts per million (450ppm).

Reaching the 450ppm target would give a high probability of curbing warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial levels, the goal set at UN climate talks. The researchers say that the picture is not entirely bleak.

Extinction could be staved off, at least for the coming decades, by overhauling conservation strategies, they say.

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At present, policymakers plan to release each year between 20 and 40 lynxes which have been bred in captivity, with the idea of placing them in their historical range -- a vast area that includes parts of western and central Spain and eastern Portugal, too.

But the study says that, rather than a general re-introduction, a smarter tactic would be to target only top-quality habitats which are least fragmented and offer the best chance of resisting climate change.

This could be done with a yearly release of six males and six females, aged between one and four years. Computer models suggest this "would avert the likely extinction of (the Iberian) lynx this century", it adds.

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trekkienut

I seem to remember a phrase from my high school years during pep-rallies: Only the strong survive. If this animal is that fragile then I don't think anything man could do would make any difference

July 25 2013 at 7:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
sha11e

There is more to the story of Iberian lynx decline: I saw a documentary on the efforts by conservationists to save this species (or sub-species) in Spain's Donana preserve. Thrilled, at fist to see a mating and birth of 2 cubs, they were surprised & horrified to see one of the cubs turn on the other and kill it. Wikipedia's article on Iberian lynx also cites this behavior; "Siblings become violent towards one another between 30 and 60 days. A cub will frequently kill its littermate in a brutal fight." This behaviour, coupled with its almost exclusive preference for rabbit meat (think of the giant panda's dependence on bamboo)may both be genetically hard-wired. But combined together, it's easy to see how they lead to extinction.

July 24 2013 at 9:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
proctorfarmer

I agree with people that said climate change happened many times and is cylintric. But my question is this: Why can't the FIRST climate change be caused by man? Look at the world map of 60 years ago with forestation. The billions of cars. The trillions of factories that were non-existant before that time. Seems like a dramatic change in our humans lives and all the effects it has created. No one ever thought mercury poisoning would forever change our oceans either.

July 24 2013 at 7:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jerard59

See yah! Animals have been going extinct since the beginning of life on this planet. You don't see any T-Rex's now do you? Their death was caused by natural climate change. When the earth is tired of humans it will shake us off like a dog with fleas.

July 24 2013 at 5:55 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jerard59's comment
Say NO to libs!

Brilliant! Thank you for your common sense!

July 24 2013 at 6:58 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Harry F Towers

FYI, while no doubt climate change is wiping out habit for a lot of creatures and plants, this particular cat is not the rarest cat in the world. That dubious distinction belongs to a leopard found in Russia in only one particular forest close to China. I can't remember the exact name of the leopard but it is named for the place it lives and there are less than 40 left. Still the plight of the Iberian Lynx is still a sad one, you would think they would launch a breeding program at the Madrid or Barcelona zoos, I mean what are they waiting for?

July 24 2013 at 5:15 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Harry F Towers's comment
Say NO to libs!

They're wading through liberal red-tape. Can't do anything until they grease the left's palms with exorbitant amounts of MONEY.

July 24 2013 at 7:01 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
fd138

Since GLOBAL WARMING HAS NOT HAPPENED LIKE THEY SAY IT WOULD ( coastal cities under water 20 years ago) It's been getting cooler.......they had to CHANGE THE TERM to CLIMATE CHANGE. And everything that is WRONG with this planet is blamed on it.
I love the LEFTY MEDIA STILL PREACHING THIS GARBAG

July 24 2013 at 5:12 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to fd138's comment
Say NO to libs!

Would fav you IF the lefties gave me that option!

July 24 2013 at 7:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jfsavo

I am so tired of hearing climate change for every problem in the world. The climate changes every 30 years. it is a cycle that has NOT changed in 2000 years. It has been proven that it is all a hoax brought on by special interest groups to push an agenda.
This cat is probably extinct because the population of humans have killed it off. The human population increases and builds towns, cities and ruins the habitant.
Do some real research and get the whole story. Don't just listen to a few special interest groups.
One volcano puts out more destructive gasses in one blow than the whole human population could in 100 years. Now that is a fact!

July 24 2013 at 3:38 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to jfsavo's comment
sadiemae1214

They don't build towns and cities in National Parks and that's where this feline lives in Spain. It main food source is being wiped out..Rabbits!

July 24 2013 at 5:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
frankc421

Although global warming, however caused, does damage certain aspects of the environment, it seems to have become the scapegoat for every single problem on the planet.

July 24 2013 at 5:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
cazsue

Climate change deniers are responsible for the deaths of millions.

July 24 2013 at 3:01 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to cazsue's comment
zaticon1

If you're convinced of this, you probably also believe in overpopulation. So, you should thank us. It's just like, in the 19th Century, my gun toting scragged all those buffalo! Just look at all the methane we kept out of the air! Oh, wait, I forgot; those walking steaks were "grass fed", so they didn't count.

July 24 2013 at 3:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Say NO to libs!

Boo freakin' hoo!

July 24 2013 at 7:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
StillDezzin

"But the study says that, rather than a general re-introduction, a smarter tactic would be to target only top-quality habitats which are least fragmented and offer the best chance of resisting climate change.

This could be done with a yearly release of six males and six females, aged between one and four years. Computer models suggest this "would avert the likely extinction of (the Iberian) lynx this century", it adds."

Don't wait -- get with the program! And designate more protected areas not only in Spain but globally, so that members of other species can live free of the scourge of humans.

July 24 2013 at 2:32 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Velocity105

They should capture several of them and try to captive breed for re-release.

July 24 2013 at 2:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
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