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Spain's football squad 'could save Iberian lynx'

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Spain's football squad 'could save Iberian lynx'
Spain's soccer stars, including Xavi Hernandez (right), may enjoy being associated with an animal described as a strong, quick and deadly predator. Photo: Wikipedia/www.lynxexsitu.es/Jaime Reina/AFP
11:21 CET+01:00
A leading expert has proposed that Spain's national football team should adopt the critically endangered wild cat as its mascot to draw attention to the animal's precarious status.

Spain is better known for bullfights than for saving endangered animals.

But a Spanish conservationist described as a "hero" by the famous primatologist Jane Goodall has come up with a plan to rescue both the country's reputation and one of its most iconic species.  

In "Ideas to save the Iberian lynx," Astrid Vargas proposes that Spain's national football team should adopt the country's few remaining wild felines as a mascot.

It is just one of the ideas included in a new book published by the Spanish Society for the Conservation and Study of Mammals (SECEM).

Scientists, journalists, lawyers, actors, entrepreneurs, landowners, environmentalists and even hunters have come together to suggest ways to conserve the species, of which only 300 remain.

The Iberian Lynx (Lynx pardinus) is one of the most endangered mammals in the world.

It lives exclusively in Spain and Portugal and experts say that if it were to become extinct, it would be the first feline species to do so since prehistoric times.

Vargas has an impressive CV when it comes to saving animals, according to Spanish daily 20 Minutos.  

She is credited with saving the black-footed ferret from extinction in the United States.

Then from 2003 to 2010 she led the first successful captive breeding programme for the Iberian lynx.

There would be no damage done to the macho self-image of Spain's footballers if the lynx were to be added to their red shirts. It is described as a handsome, strong, agile, quick and deadly predator.

But the cat's numbers have declined due to loss of habitat, traffic accidents and the effects of disease on its main food source, rabbits.

There has been no official word that Spain's Football Federation is considering using the lynx but an informal campaign has been started by some journalists and campaigners.

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