Lynx may be extinct in 30 years in France with less than 150 left
Due to anthropogenic changes that include poaching, traffic, deforestation, and habitat loss, their chances of livelihood have become increasingly slight.
With a research estimate of only 120 to 150 adult lynx cats remaining in France, conservationists are warning that they are considered endangered already, as tests demonstrate they may become extinct within 30 years because their genetic diversity is extremely low.
These cats have historically called Eurasia home, but due to the anthropogenic changes that range from poaching, traffic, deforestation and habitat loss, their chances of livelihood have become increasingly slight.
After lynxes disappeared from France in the 18th century, a re-introduction project in Switzerland in the 1970s led lynxes to re-establish and reproduce in the Jura mountains along the French-Swiss border, but their numbers were not sufficient enough to make the population stable.
88 DNA samples from wounded, dead, or orphaned lynxes between the years 2008 and 2020 were collected by scientists at the wildlife protection center Centre Athenas in France, which helped researchers understand the animals' genetic health. The researchers did not resort to gathering samples from healthy lynxes in order not to distress them.
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Thus, the results were out: the lack of genetic diversity is concerning. Despite the fact that there is an expected minimum of 120 adult lynxes in France, their level of diversity is equal to that of only 38 animals.
Nathen Huvier, an author of the research, said, “This population has lost a lot of genetic diversity since it was reintroduced in Switzerland,” adding, “If no new genetic material is reintroduced this population will go extinct, once again, in less than 30 years.”
“A lack of genetic diversity can reduce the fitness of the individuals, generate diseases and reduce the ability of the individuals to adapt to environmental changes,” Huvier explained as he stated that a population with those characteristics “was not able to evolve” so was vulnerable to die out.
Because the lynx is considered an apex predator and a key species in the local ecosystem, Huvier stressed it was essential to support and enhance the population’s genetic diversity by introducing lynxes from healthier groups, such as those present in Switzerland or Germany.
If that was not feasible, another way to go about it would be to exchange orphaned cubs and replace poached lynxes at wildlife rescue centers in multiple areas, but that alone does not help - stricter laws against poaching and implementing road signs to prevent the lynxes being killed by traffic, is required.
“We want this work to support action for lynx conservation,” said Huvier, as he continued, “Reintroduction, replacement of poached lynxes, and exchange of orphan lynxes between care centers, are the best short-term solutions for this population to remain alive, and it will give it a chance to develop and connect with other populations in Europe.”
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