Facts & Figures | WWF

Facts & Figures

Facts & figures

© Programa de cria / WWF Spain © WWF-Spain/Jesús Cobo © Iberian Lynx exsitu conservation programme © Wild Wonders of Europe /Pete Oxford / WWF © Silviu Matei / WWF Romania © WWF-Spain / Alfonso Moreno

Lynx: who are they?

The Iberian lynx is the world's most endangered feline species.
There are real fears that it may soon become the first cat species to become extinct for at least 2,000 years. The Eurasian lynx is one of Europe's largest predators. It has bounced back from the brink of extinction in Europe but it is still critically endangered in some areas, such as  in the Voges, in the Palatinian forest, the Bohemian-Bavarian forest and the Balkans (source).

Lynx in Europe: the main threats

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. Epidemics, such as myxamatosis and haemorrhagic diseases, have affected rabbit populations over the years, impacting also the Iberian lynx population.

Car hits
The construction of high speed roads and highways, splitting up the lynx habitat, is another major threat. 2015 was a black year: 51 animals died under the wheels of cars in Spain . A very high number, given the small population of 404 of the species in the Iberian Peninsula. Thanks to a successful WWF campaign, the Spanish national and regional authorities are starting to take preventive measures on the roads. 

Habitat loss and degradation
The building of roads, dams, railways and the excessive exploitation of forests (like the cork forest in Spain and Portugal) contribute to the loss and fragmentation of the Iberian lynx habitat.

Illegal Hunting, the main threats to the Eurasian lynx
The main threats to the Eurasian lynx are hunting and habitat loss. Although the population has benefitted from the ban on legal international fur trade, illegal hunting still represents a major threat.
Ironically, in the past the species was regarded both as an attractive hunting trophy and as a vermin. Hunters prized its valuable fur and its meat, and although some landowners appreciate its role in keeping fox and rabbit numbers down, most perceive it as a threat to their game populations.

The Iberian and Eurasian lynx are legally protected against hunting by the Birds & Habitats Directive, but they are still the victims of guns, traps and snares, particularly those set for other animals.
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Lynx population in Europe
© WWF EPO
The lynx does not respect national borders. Lynx populations and spopulations are present in 11 distinct regions but only 4 of them prevented the lynx from extinction in the last century: Scandinavia, Baltic-, Balkan- and the Carpathian regions.

In north-west Europe the lynx disappeared completely. It even roamed the UK countryside but became extinct because it was hunted for its fur and because of intensive farming destroying their habitats.

Source: Recovery of large carnivores in Europe's modern human-dominated; Guillaume Chapron et al. (2014)

What WWF is doing to protect the lynx