for National Geographic News
The world's most endangered cat species may be slightly less endangered than previously thought.
A new population of Iberian lynx has been discovered in a remote area of Spain—raising the number of known populations from two to three—a conservation group reports.
The discovery increases the possibility that the heavily spotted cats can be rescued from the brink of extinction.
The newfound population appears to roam private estates in the Castile la Mancha Province of central Spain, according to the international conservation group WWF.
The two other known populations occupy isolated portions of Andalusia in southern Spain.
WWF announced the discovery on Tuesday after local newspapers corroborated evidence of the cats' existence. The animals have been caught on film.
"We are excited and amazed by this discovery," Luis Suárez, head of the organization's species program in Madrid, said in a statement.
Information on the discovery comes from the local government, Suárez said in a telephone interview. But the cats may have originally been seen by private landowners who wish to remain out of the spotlight.
Only between 100 and 150 Iberian lynx remain, including the new population, Suárez said. The World Conservation Union lists the species as "critically endangered," meaning it faces "an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild."
Russia's Amur leopard and Japan's Iriomote cat have also been dubbed most endangered. But they are currently considered subspecies of leopards and leopard cats, respectively. This leaves the Iberian lynx, or Spanish lynx, with the dubious honor of being the most engangered cat species on Earth.
Pablo Ferreras is a researcher who studies the ecology of the Iberian lynx with the Instituto de Investigación en Recursos Cinegéticos (IREC) in Ciudad Real, Spain.
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