Disease threatens most endangered feline species Iberian lynx
* From: AFP
* March 09, 2010 10:21PM
THE Iberian lynx, the world's most endangered feline species, is under renewed threat.
The threat comes from a disease affecting animals born in breeding centres in Spain, the Lynx Conservation Program said today.
Three of the 72 animals in captivity have died since December from Chronic Kidney Disease.
More than one third of the animals in the two breeding centres have also shown symptoms of CKD, which only affects those in captivity.
Veterinarians from the program "are working and consulting with experts to try to find the possible origin of the CKD, as well as trying to put in place measures that could prevent the emergence of new cases.
"For now, the focus is on maintaining and providing palliative care to the high percentage of the population affected by this disease.''
The program, launched in 2003, is aimed at producing enough lynxes in captivity so they can be reintroduced to the wild, a project that was to start this year.
Barely 200 Iberian lynxes are believed to remain in the wild, mostly in protected areas of southern Spain.
At the start of the 20th century there were around 100,000 in Spain and Portugal.
But urban development, hunting, and most of all a dramatic decline due to disease in the number of wild rabbits, the lynx's main prey, have sharply reduced the numbers of the spotted cats, which can grow to about one metre in length.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature now lists the species as "critically endangered'' - the highest category of risk for a wild animal.
Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://www.bigcatrescue.org