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The big cat running out of lives

Por: | 29 de octubre de 2014


For the iconic Iberian lynx, 2014 is already a record-breaker. Sadly, for the world’s most endangered wild cat, the landmark is nothing to celebrate. So far this year, 19 animals have been killed following collisions with cars, the highest annual total since records began.

Add to that a further 14 which suffered the same fate last year and an average of 1.5 are dying on Spanish roads every month. That represents a staggering 10% of the entire species (based on a recent global population estimate of 332).

The elusive creature favours dense woodland, and scrubland away from human activity, feeding almost exclusively on rabbits. But a 40% decline in its main source of prey due to disease has forced the cats to travel further afield in search of food. This has resulted in a greater number of lynx encountering vehicles on roads in Andalucía, where the species’ two known breeding populations live. It’s happening so frequently that road deaths have become the biggest cause of non-natural lynx mortality in Spain.

Conservationists claim the deaths are having a catastrophic effect on lynx numbers and have lobbied for road improvements aimed at protecting the felines. They have been highly critical of the Andalucían regional government, which they accuse of failing to fulfil its obligations under EU law.

Andalucía’s public works ministry, for its part, has pledged €1 million for the construction of specialised lynx crossings and for the upgrading of existing roadside fencing. The work, which has yet to start, must be completed by March 2017.

The regional government department is a partner in Life Lince, an EU-funded lynx conservation scheme, which aims to restore the cat to its traditional range across Spain and Portugal.

Today the species is restricted to the Sierra Morena and Doñana National Park, but once roamed large tracts of Castilla la Mancha and Extremadura, as well as Portugal.

But the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) blames authorities for a three-year delay in agreeing to improve four lynx-death ‘black spots’ on roads in Andalucía. The issue came to a head earlier this month when the campaign group wrote to the European Commission outlining its concerns. The letter states that Spain has a duty as a member state of the EU not to obstruct corridors that allow the geographical distribution of the Iberian lynx. It also accuses the regional government of failing to install crossings that allow for the safe passage of the lynx, and of not maintaining fencing.

“It is unacceptable that the European Commission is investing great efforts in the conservation of the lynx, through the largest project ever created, and that outcomes are being compromised because of the public works ministry,” said Juan Carlos del Olmo, secretary general of WWF Spain. “We have been demanding for some time that the necessary measures be urgently implemented so that the lynx and other protected species can cross highways safely,” he added.

Despite the recent decline, lynx numbers have increased steadily in recent years, from a low of 94 in 2002 to more than 300 in 2014, due largely to concerted conservation efforts. But the distinctive animal, which remains on a list of critically endangered species, faces an uncertain future.

Let’s hope the next record to be broken by this alluring creature is of an altogether more positive nature.

Picture credit: El País

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Authors (Bloggers)

Chris Finnigan is a freelance journalist based in Barcelona. He writes for Barcelona Metropolitan and is a book reviewer and reader for The Barcelona Review. He is a graduate of the London School of Economics. You can find him on twitter @chrisjfinnigan

Ben Cardew is a freelance journalist, translator and teacher, now resident in Barcelona after growing up gracefully in Scotland via Norwich. He writes for The Guardian, the NME and The Quietus, among others, on everything from music to digital media. You can find him on Twitter @bencardew

Fiona Flores Watson is a freelance journalist, guide and translator who has lived in Seville since 2003, and has been a writer and editor for more than 20 years. She writes for the Guardian, Telegraph and Sunday Times Travel Magazine. Originally from Essex, Fiona is also Consulting Editor of and has her own blog, Scribbler in Seville. She has been contributing to Trans-Iberian since 2014 and tweets at @Seville_Writer

Jeff Brodsky is a freelance writer. He arrived in Barcelona in 2013 via an admittedly indirect route, living in Chicago, Arizona, Seville, Amsterdam, North Carolina and Madrid. Despite not having stepped foot in Seville for over five years, he still speaks Spanish with an Andalusian accent. Jeff’s writing has been published in newspapers and magazines in America and Europe.

Koren Helbig is an Australian freelance journalist and blogger enjoying a life of near-eternal sunshine in Alicante. She writes for publications in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, focusing on stories exploring smart and positive approaches to social issues. She hangs out on Twitter at @KorenHelbig and keeps a selection of her favourite stories at

Julie Pybus lives in a small off-grid house on a hillside in Catalunya. She usually focuses on helping charities and social enterprises with their publications and websites, but has also written for The Guardian, Country Living and The Observer. Julie launched and runs a hyperlocal website which endeavors to increase understanding between the different nationalities in her area @JuliePybus

Paul Louis Archer is a freelance photographer, multimedia storyteller and artist educator. A cross-disciplinary worker, who endeavors to encompass the mediums of photography, audio design and writing. Born in Hertfordshire of an English father and Spanish mother. Based in the United Kingdom. @PaulLouisArcher

Vicki McLeod is a freelance writer and photographer. She has lived in Mallorca since 2004. Vicki writes about her beloved island for The Majorca Daily Bulletin, the only daily English language paper in Spain; produces regular columns for the Euro Weekly News, and articles for Vicki runs PR strategies for several businesses in Mallorca and London as well as working on her own blogs and projects. She and her husband, Oliver Neilson, supply photo and text content for private clients via @phoenixmediamlr. She tweets at @mcleod_vicki.

Born in Newcastle upon Tyne and based in Barcelona, Alx Phillips writes about contemporary art, dance and theatre in a way that human beings can understand. For more previews, reviews, interviews and extras, check:

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