Pseudorabies: New threat emerges to endangered Iberian lynx
February 24, 2017
Matojo, an endangered Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus), was one of the first to be born in the wild in Spain's Extremadura region after the species was reintroduced by the Life+Iberlince project. On 1st December 2015, at only nine months old, Matojo died of what seemed to be natural causes. Recently however, a new study has shown the death was actually due to the pseudorabies virus (PRV).
The study, published in the journal BMC Veterinary Research, marks the first instance of an Iberian lynx succumbing to the disease and only the second known report of it killing a wild cat after a Florida panther died of pseudorabies in 1994.
Curious Iberian lynx kittens. Pseudorabies may pose an additional threat to one of the most endangered cat species in the world.
Photo credit: Ex-situ conservation program of the Iberian lynx
Pseudorabies, also known as Aujeszky's disease, is a disease that is closer to the herpes virus than to rabies. It's carried by swine, and the researchers believe that Matojo may have caught it from a wild boar, which they describe as "natural reservoirs" of the virus.
Animals that catch it usually die within 12 to 24 hours.
The Iberian lynx's position in the wild is already precarious and despite a successful reintroduction project the species numbers only around 400 in the wild, according to the WWF. Road kill and occasional illegal hunting, as well as accidental trapping, are the main threats to its survival, says the IUCN.
To ensure further deaths don't occur, the researchers suggest that lynxes could be vaccinated against pseudorabies during routine captures. However, there is no guarantee that this method will work.
"Vaccinating wild species under threat of extinction had already been suggested previously in the case of the Florida panther, although its effectiveness has not yet been proven," the Javier Masot, lead author on the study, said.