This decade has seen an increased awareness of climate issues and many commitments, by both world powerhouses and developing countries, to lower national carbon emissions; however, the world’s collective action may be coming too late to save a long-endangered and dearly-beloved cat.
The beautiful Iberian Lynx currently tops the list of the world’s most endangered felines with only 250 animals living outside of captivity in the southern regions of Spain. In a recent study, the scientific journal Nature Climate Change predicted that the fate of the lynx hangs in a delicate balance. Due to their very specific forest/grassland habitat needs and the industrialization of their former territory, the wild lynx are currently facing an ever-decreasing amount of hunting land. And, as climate change drives their main food source (the rabbit) away from this land, the lynx must deal with the threat of hunger in addition to illegal poaching and habitat pollutants.
If current conditions persist, Nature Climate Change estimates the “time to extinction to be less than 50 years, even with rapid and deep global cuts to anthropogenic [man-made] greenhouse-gas emissions.” In short, even if worldwide carbon emission goals are met, the lynx will be unable to adapt.
However, there may still be hope for the lynx if drastic changes are made to current repopulation efforts. At this point, 20-40 captive-bred lynx are released every year in habitats throughout Spain and Portugal. As research continues, conservationists believe that releasing smaller numbers of Lynx into targeted, previously-successful locations may yield higher survival rates.
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