The Iberian Lynx, the most endangered of feline species in the world, has almost gone extinct. The spotted cat has fortunately made a comeback in Spain albeit it has met a new enemy.
Costly efforts to reintroduce the Lynx into the wild now face a new problem: cars with the number of lynx that were killed because of car accident soaring since the economic crisis in Spain started in 2008. In 2014 alone, 22 of the animals died after being hit by vehicles, a significant increase from just two in 2008.
Ramon Perez de Ayala, from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in Spain, said that the worst threat for the future of the species are cars and this is revolting given that this problem could be easily fixed.
Perez de Ayala said that the cost to make roads safer for Lynxes would be around six million euros or around $6.5 million and this include placing barriers, clearing bushes in the roadsides and setting up passages that would let the endangered felines safely cross roads.
"With the excuse of the economic crisis, we have not even carried out the most basic road maintenance works," Perez de Ayala said.
The public works ministry said that it is taking its part in fighting road accidents that involve the endangered species and that it has made the necessary road works.
The population of lynx declined because of farming, poaching and the declining number of its main prey, wild rabbits because of disease. About 100,000 lynx existed at the beginning of the 20th century but by 2002, the animal's population has dropped to less than 100 resulting in it being categorized as critically endangered.
The animal, which can only be found in Portugal and Spain, is a bit bigger than a red fox and should it go extinct would become the first big cat to be wiped out from the planet since the sabre-tooth tiger disappeared 10,000 years ago.
The program to save the animal has a budget of $38 million and involves four breeding centers. The lynxes that were born in these centers are monitored using webcams and are taught to catch wild rabbits. The animals are also kept away from humans.
The cats found to be good at hunting get released into the wild while the rest are kept in captivity for reproduction purposes.