Iberian Lynx shifts from Endangered to Vulnerable status

Simona Mazzeo

Brussels (Brussels Morning) – The Iberian lynx shifts from “endangered” to “vulnerable,” marking conservation success. Efforts include boosting prey and reducing threats. It paved the way for potential reintroductions and lessons for Eurasian lynx in Belgium.

How did the Iberian lynx move from “endangered” to “vulnerable”?

The Iberian lynx has repositioned from “endangered” to “vulnerable” position on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s Red List of Threatened Species – a historic triumph for conservation and the effect of the work of 21 organisations.

While the Spanish Environment Ministry only estimated 62 adult Iberian lynx in 2001, a new count in 2023 registered 2,021 – representing a 21% increase compared to the year before. As a result, the IUCN Red List has pushed the species to the “vulnerable” category.

“The Iberian lynx was on the verge of extinction, but this remarkable success shows that even the most endangered species can recover thanks to our work,” stated Nicolas Tubbs, director of international programmes at WWF-Belgium. “This substantial evidence makes us hope that large-scale wildlife comeback in Europe will one day become a reality.”

Why is prey presence crucial for the Iberian lynx’s survival?

Conservation measures for the iconic feline have mainly concentrated on increasing its prey presence: primarily the European rabbit, which presently faces a 70% decline in its population.

What human-related threats does the Iberian lynx face?

On the other hand, the lynx also meets a range of threats caused by human elements, so measures have also been taken to facilitate illegal hunting and poaching, as well as to control mortality from road accidents (collisions with automobiles are the main cause of unnatural mortality of these lynx).

Despite this revival, the definitive comeback of the Iberian lynx as a species needs the establishment of new populations to provide the growth of females. Therefore, WWF is currently operating with other organisations to reintroduce lynx in two regions of Castile-La Mancha and one in Andalusia. Additionally, it is important to work on ecological connectivity between the various populations.

What challenges does the Eurasian lynx face in Belgium?

Lynx are also present in Belgium: the Eurasian lynx, a cousin of the Iberian subspecies. An analysis conducted last month revealed that there is space for 75 of these lynx in Belgium. “The Spanish example also shows a glimmer of hope for Eurasian lynx, which have considerable populations in neighbouring countries.”

The challenges for the variant in Belgium are equivalent: good ecological connectivity within the region and between the different inhabitants of lynx, combating mortality from road casualties and ensuring adequate prey items. With the abundant presence of deer and roe deer in the south of Belgium, this requirement is already met.

“WWF-Belgium is already operating on making our country more hospitable to the lynx by restoring, connecting and saving our nature. For example, by creating forest boundaries and forest clearings and revitalising endangered habitats to make them essential forest reserves,” Tubbs stated. “Besides the lynx, the whole biodiversity advantages from this: from wild cats to alpine newts.”

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Simona Mazzeo is a journalist at Brussels Morning News. She is covering European Parliament, European Council, European Commission & Italy News. She is a law graduate and lawyer residing in Agropoli, has carved out a multifaceted career dedicated to justice and social advocacy. She actively serves as a delegated councilor for the Equal Opportunities Committee of the Bar Association of Vallo della Lucania, championing fair and equal representation within the legal system. Recognized for her expertise and empathy, Simona is qualified for registration in the list of Special Curators of minors in civil and criminal matters at the Court of Vallo della Lucania, ensuring the rights and interests of vulnerable children are protected throughout legal proceedings. Beyond her legal practice, Simona demonstrates a strong commitment to social causes. She is a founding member of the Free Lawyer Movement, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing legal assistance to those who cannot afford it. Additionally, she leverages her knowledge and passion for social justice as a non-professional journalist, contributing insightful and informative pieces on relevant legal and societal issues. Through her diverse endeavors, Simona Mazzeo exemplifies dedication to legal excellence, social responsibility, and a fervent belief in equal access to justice for all.