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The Iberian lynx is the world's most endangered cat. Spotty of coat, tufty of ear, and teetering on the verge of extinction less than two decades ago, the Iberian lynx is continuing to claw its way back across Spain and Portugal. A lynx (/ l ɪ ŋ k s /; plural lynx or lynxes) is any of the four species (Canada lynx, Iberian lynx, Eurasian lynx, bobcat) within the medium-sized wild cat genus Lynx.The name lynx originated in Middle English via Latin from the Greek word λύγξ, derived from the Indo-European root leuk-('light, brightness') in reference to the luminescence of its reflective eyes. All rights reserved. Hunting and road hits – With these animals being considered both prize hunting trophies and vermin, which is slightly ironic, they have therefore been hunted and killed for their fur, their meat, and by farmers and game keepers as they pose a threat to their live stock. Iberian lynx is continuing to claw its way back across Spain and Portugal, Government efforts to get rid of creatures considered to be vermin, Graphic of areas in Spain lynx is prevalent. It is here, under the merciless Andalusian sun, that since 2003 a team of 10 dedicated experts and several volunteers have been bringing the magnificent Iberian lynx, the world's most endangered cat, back to life. A series of projects, coordinated by the Andalucían government in conjunction with other Spanish regions, the Portuguese authorities and conservation NGOs, has arrested the decline, expanded populations and seen lynxes reintroduced to other areas. The Iberian lynx is a fussy eater. Despite its speed and agility, it has a monastic diet, feeding almost exclusively on rabbits. If luck stays on our side, we'll have at least 750 females of reproductive age – 3,000 lynxes in total – by 2040. When a lynx comes along, explains Pérez de Ayala, the density of foxes and mongooses goes down and rabbit populations increase. A 20-year project to reintroduce the species across the peninsula has seen their numbers rise to 855. This is primarily due to the loss of its prey, rabbits, which are heavily affected by viruses. In the absence of lynxes, medium-sized predators that eat rabbits – such as foxes and Egyptian mongooses – put prey species under a lot of pressure. 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With more and more roads being constructed, naturally more traffic is on the roads and so more of these animals are being struck and killed by these vehicles. Spanish scientists have sequenced the genome of the Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus), currently one of the world's most endangered felines. These sites will cover 2,750,000 hectares and are designed to help conserve their natural habitats and hopefully help them to breed and begin thriving once more. They have confirmed the "extreme erosion" suffered by its DNA. By the 1960’s, they were largely confined to Spain, covering around 10% of the surface of Spain. The Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) is a feline. In 2002, IUCN Cat Specialist Group initiated the first International Conference on the Conservation of the Iberian Lynx in Andujar, Spain. And where it could still flourish today - with a little help. The Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) is considered the most endangered wild feline species in the world and the only feline listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (2010). Javier Salcedo, the project’s new leader, said the main aim was to join up existing populations and increase their genetic diversity. In 1996, IUCN identified Iberian Lynx as the most endangered among all the wild cat species in the world. Unfortunately, these cats aren’t dying out by accident, and not surprisingly it is human beings that have played a big role in their steady decline over the years. There are four main factors contributing towards their decline, and these include: A decline in food – Rabbits are the main prey of Iberian Lynxes and thanks to their steady decline, also thanks to human beings, with diseases such as Myxamatosis drastically decreasing wild rabbit populations. At the end of the last century, however, things looked decidedly bleak for the bearded cats – and for rabbits, which make up 90% of their diet. By the year 1914 they were largely confined to southern Portugal and Spain. It is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List. They also want to work harder to educate people about how important these animals are for the natural balance in that ecosystem. After decades of decline and habitat contraction, in 2015 the IUCN decided to downgrade the Iberian Lynx from “critically endangered” to “endangered”. “Today, the situation is pretty good and I think we can be optimistic and fairly calm because we haven’t just recovered the population in Andalucía, we’ve also built populations in Portugal – where the lynx was extinct – and in Extremadura and Castilla-La Mancha,” says Simón. In 1970, the hunting of Iberian Lynx was made illegal. As a result, the Iberian lynx is still threatened with being the first feline to become extinct since the sabre-toothed tiger 10,000 years ago. But their future is far from secure. Since 2002, the population size has steadily increased in the Andalusian subpopulations, although in 2013 and 2014 this recovery has suffered a halt due to the decline in prey populations. Iberian lynx cubs born in the wild bring hope for the world's most endangered feline species. As they are so severely under threat, Spanish governments have actually proposed seventy two separate protected sites to conserve the natural habitats of the animals. Ramón Pérez de Ayala, the large carnivores coordinator for WWF Spain – one of 21 partners in the latest project – warns that lynx populations are in danger of developing genetic problems if they remain isolated. “If we carry on, if we can maintain the population growth momentum, and if luck stays on our side, we’ll have at least 750 females of reproductive age – which means more than 3,000 lynxes in total – by 2040,” he says. Lynx became legally protected in 1973 in Spain and 1974 in Portugal. In 2002, there were fewer than 100 left in the wild. “We need to see an exchange of animals that will give us an exchange of genes,” he says. There are populations in the Sierra Morena and Donaña national park. The Iberian lynx has been brought to the brink of extinction because of a combination of threats: Decreasing food base Rabbits form the main prey of the Iberian lynx. Experts say that if the current conservation and reintroduction efforts can maintain their momentum, the species could be out of danger by 2040. In lynx: Iberian lynx. Miguel Ángel Simón, a biologist who spent 22 years conserving and building up lynx numbers before retiring last year, remembers the daunting scale of the task he and his colleagues faced.“When we started back in 2000, we didn’t even know how many lynxes were left,” he says. Epidemics, such as myxamatosis and the haemorrhagic disease, have affected rabbit populations over the years, which has in turn affected the Iberian lynx population. Genomic studies of endangered species provide insights into their evolution and demographic history, reveal patterns of genomic erosion that might limit their viability, and offer tools for their effective conservation. 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