The most endangered cat in the world, the Iberian Lynx, is also the most threatened European carnivore. Found solely in Iberian peninsula in Spain, the wild cat is likely to be the first to go extinct among feline species. Closely related but smaller than the Eurasian Lynx, the Iberian Lynx weighs in the range of thirty to sixty pounds with a more cat-like face and distinct skin markings than its European cousin. Rest of the attributes, including prominent facial ruff, short tail, longish legs and tufted ears, are similar to other lynx species.
A solitary hunter and nocturnal predator the Iberian Lynx relies largely on stealth and stalking to bring down prey. It often lays hidden in wait for hours before pouncing on the hunted animal in as few bounds as possible. Chief prey animal is the rabbit, with birds, rodents and hares less commonly taken. In times of desperation, such as these, when the prey base is thin - deer and mouflons are also attacked and killed by the lynx. The ear tufts aid the cat in locating its prey while thick hair on paws enable it to tread on snow and move silently.
Also known as Spanish Lynx, the secretive cat mates at the beginning of the year and cubs are usually born in the months of March and April. Usually three to four babies are born and gain independence at around eight to nine months of age.
For much of history, the Iberian Lynx was a part of Spanish fauna and flora - having a marked influence on the ecosystem. Throughout the last century there has been a steady decline in the cat's population, largely due to loss of its main prey animal - the rabbit - to disease. Other elements like roadside kills, poaching, hunting and habitat destruction with the development of Spanish infrastructure have also played a part. Despite warnings by eminent conservationists in the past decades, little government action has been taken to preserve the lynx or its habitat. With nearly one hundred adults remaining in areas the size of pinpricks on the map of Spain - it is now or never for the Iberian Lynx.
There is the tiniest flicker of hope with birth in captivity of few of these beautiful cats and some incentive shown by authorities in recent times to protect their reserves in the wild. The situation is still critical though and demands swift and sustainable action if the Iberian Lynx is to survive as a species!