Domestic cats throw lifeline to endangered lynx
16 March 2007, MADRID - Pet cats are to provide an unexpected lifeline for the world’s most endangered feline, the Iberian lynx.
16 March 2007
MADRID - Pet cats are to provide an unexpected lifeline for the world’s most endangered feline, the Iberian lynx.
Researchers in Spain discovered they can inseminate the eggs of domestic cats with the sperm of male lynxes.
The breakthrough means scientists can test the fertility of the male lynxes and widen the gene pool of the planet’s rarest wild cat, the Spanish daily El Pais reported.
In a pioneering scheme, researchers will now be able to explore better ways of inseminating future female lynxes.
Experts believe there are only between 100 and 150 Iberian lynx alive, due to a dwindling habitats and a decline in their natural prey, wild rabbits.
The only two known colonies of wild lynx where breeding pairs have been found are in the Doñana Natural Park and in the Sierra Morena, in Andalusia, southern Spain.
Researchers fear the lynxes are in real danger of dying out because of the small number of breeding pairs.
Another danger is the high number killed by cars on the roads through their breeding grounds.
But now scientists are to extract sperm from male lynxes killed on the roads and freeze it for later use.
They have been helped by the cooperation of veterinary practices near Madrid who contributed the ovaries of dead domestic cats.
These gave scientists a pool of immature eggs which are then nurtured in laboratories and later fertilized with lynx sperm.
Scientists can then see how suitable sperm is for impregnating female lynxes in the future.
Using domestic cat eggs saves researchers from using the eggs from an already endangered species.
It means they do not have to move animals from one location to another, avoiding potential problems with transportation and adaptation.
Another project which researchers hope will stop the Iberian lynx from suffering the same fate as the dodo, involves using bunny rabbits.
Domestic rabbits are to be released in to the wild as an unlikely food supplement in the Doñana Natural Park.
At present dwindling numbers of wild rabbits have forced hungry lynxes into the straying from its natural habitat in search of prey.
Subject: Spanish news