Press release | 19 Jun, 2024

Iberian lynx rebounding thanks to conservation action - IUCN Red List

Gland, Switzerland, 20 June 2024 (IUCN) – The Iberian Lynx has improved from Endangered to Vulnerable on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™, continuing its dramatic recovery from near extinction thanks to sustained conservation efforts.

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The Iberian lynx has moved from Endangered to Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.

Photo: CoDe83 / iNaturalist CC BY-NC

As the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species celebrates its 60th anniversary, its importance cannot be overstated as the most complete source of information on the state of the world’s biodiversity. It is an essential tool that measures progress towards halting nature loss and achieving the 2030 global biodiversity goals. The improvement in the Red List status of the Iberian lynx shows that successful conservation works for wildlife and communities alike,” said Dr Grethel Aguilar, IUCN Director General.

The conservation status of the Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) has improved from Endangered to Vulnerable, with the population increasing exponentially from 62 mature individuals in 2001 to 648 in 2022. Today, the total population, including young and mature lynx, is estimated to be more than 2,000. Conservation efforts for this keystone species have focused on increasing the abundance of its prey, the Endangered European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), protecting and restoring Mediterranean scrub and forest habitat, and reducing deaths caused by human activity. Expanding the species’ genetic diversity through translocations and an ex-situ breeding programme has been key to increasing numbers. Since 2010, more than 400 Iberian lynx have been reintroduced to parts of Portugal and Spain. The Iberian lynx now occupies at least 3,320 km2, an increase from 449 km2 in 2005.

However, the Iberian lynx remains threatened, mainly due to potential fluctuations of the European rabbit population if there are further virus outbreaks. The Iberian lynx is also susceptible to diseases from domestic cats. Poaching and road kills remain threats, particularly where high traffic roads cut-through the lynx’s habitat. Habitat alterations related to climate change are a growing threat.

The greatest recovery of a cat species ever achieved through conservation, this success is the result of committed collaboration between public bodies, scientific institutions, NGOs, private companies, and community members including local landowners, farmers, gamekeepers and hunters, and the financial and logistical support of the European Union LIFE project,” said Francisco Javier Salcedo Ortiz, Coordinator of the LIFE Lynx-Connect project, which led the conservation action for the Iberian lynx. “There is still a lot of work to do to ensure that Iberian lynx populations survive and the species recovers throughout its indigenous range. Looking ahead, there are plans to reintroduce the Iberian lynx to new sites in central and northern Spain.

In its first Green Status of Species assessment – the global standard for measuring species recovery and assessing conservation impact – the Iberian lynx is Largely Depleted. However, its high Conservation Legacy reflects the impact of conservation efforts to date, and “enough suitable habitat remains that the species could reach Fully Recovered status in 100 years, assuming conservation efforts continue with maximum efficacy.”

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It is fantastic to see the impact of conservation on the recovery of species that the Red List is assessing using the Green Status of Species metrics. The example of the Iberian Lynx demonstrates both the effectiveness of conservation and the robustness of the Red List to demonstrate this impact. The expanded Red List incorporating the Green Status of Species allows us to show the full picture of the conservation status of a species, helping guide future actions for further recovery,” said Dr Barney Long, Senior Director of Conservation Strategies at Re:wild and Co-Chair of the IUCN Green Status Working Group.

The significant recovery of the Iberian lynx demonstrates that even the most threatened species can be brought back from the brink of extinction through committed, science-based conservation action and provides hope for those working to protect wildlife across the globe,” said Sarah Durant, Professor at ZSL’s Institute of Zoology.