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The Comeback Cat: Spain’s Iberian lynx

How did what used to be the rarest cat on earth leap a staggering 1000% in number in just 20 years?

Like so many carnivores around the world, through history the Iberian lynx was persecuted as a menace or a threat to livestock and lifestyle: they were shot, poisoned, trapped, hunted. And misunderstood.

“They are very easy to kill,” said Carmen Rueda Rodriguez, a lynx expert and field technician with a Spanish conservation organization called CBD Habitat. “So lynxes are very curious. They are cats. So when they see a trap, or they see a rabbit or a pigeon or whatever, they just go to see what's going on. They are not afraid of people, they are not afraid of anything. They feel like they are the kings of the land. So it's very easy to kill a lynx.”

A very small king. The Iberian lynx is a species only found in Spain and Portugal….they are close cousins to other lynx species - like the bigger one found in other parts of europe, and the North American Canada lynx.

caption: Biologist Carmen Rueda Rodriguez uses a spotting scoop to look for Iberian Lynx.
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Biologist Carmen Rueda Rodriguez uses a spotting scoop to look for Iberian Lynx.

The cats have those really characteristic long tufted ears, black spots dappled across their tawny coat and an old fashioned beard that can stretch down in two long triangles each side of their chin.

But despite it’s regal flare, it’s still endangered, and a real focus of attention. But things are turning around, there used to be only around 100 lynx in Spain but now there are nearly 1000.

That’s why I’ve come to Spain - to figure out what is behind that success story.

THE WILD is a production of KUOW in Seattle in partnership with Chris Morgan Wildlife and Wildlife Media. It is produced by Matt Martin and edited by Jim Gates. It is hosted, produced and written by Chris Morgan. Fact checking by Apryle Craig. Our theme music is by Michael Parker.

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