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€400k-a-head Iberian Lynx mainly threatened by Spanish politics, NOT climate change

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The survival of the endangered Iberian Lynx can easily be ensured, scientists report today, if only Spanish regional politicians will stop insisting on efforts to reintroduce the iconic cats into areas which are unsuitable for them.

"The world's most endangered cat", according to this statement from Copenhagen university, is imperilled today because it can only eat rabbits, and the rabbit population of the Iberian peninsula has been devastated by disease in recent times. As a result there are now only 250 lynxes left in the wild, despite massive efforts by the Spanish authorities on their behalf - no less than €100 million (or €400k per head) has been spent on lynx conservation so far, we learn.

The two surviving populations of wild lynxes are done for if they stay where they are no matter what humanity does in the way of cutting carbon emissions, according to a group of scientists whose work was published yesterday in Nature Climate Change. They write:

Anticipated climate change will rapidly and severely decrease lynx abundance and probably lead to its extinction in the wild within 50 years, even with strong global efforts to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

But the boffins go on to say that nonetheless the lynxes could live on if animals are released into the wild in suitable places. Unfortunately, it seems that the Spanish government is not planning on doing that. We are told:

Spanish policymakers are considering releasing lynxes evenly across the country’s autonomous regions [but] the scientists’ models predict the most suitable areas to be in the northern half of the Iberian Peninsula. These areas could ultimately deliver both prey abundance and habitat connectivity in spite of climate change.

In other words, southern politicians want lynxes placed in their constituencies, even though it would actually be better for the cats to put them all in the north - where they would laugh at climate change. The politicians' "geopolitical strategy" would at best see lynx numbers remaining dangerously low, the scientists say, whereas focusing on the best areas would see numbers increase to 900 or more by the end of the century - climate change or no.

So it would seem that it is not climate change which is the main threat to the iconic cats - but Spanish politicians. ®

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