(May 31, 2007)

Spain forgoes highway plan to save lynx

By Ben Harding
From Reuters

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain has ditched plans to build a 300-km motorway across the country's sun-baked plains because it would have threatened the Iberian lynx, one of the world's most endangered animals.

The road linking the ancient capital of Toledo with the southern city of Cordoba would have cut straight through several protected areas, including the nocturnal cat's last viable refuge in the Sierra Morena mountains.

Environmentalists estimate only 250 to 350 Iberian lynxes remain in the world, all of them in Spain.

Other threatened species such as the imperial eagle, Iberian wolf and black stork would also have suffered if the highway had gone ahead, Spain's environment ministry said.

The new road would have trapped lynxes between two main highways, ecologists said, killing any chance of the animals spreading to new areas and recovering numbers.

"This is excellent news," said Theo Oberhuber of Spanish environmentalist group Ecologists in Action.

Lynx numbers have been ravaged in the last 150 years by farming, poaching and road kills and their population has shrunk to few scattered groups in central and southern Spain.

Planners will now explore alternative routes for the road.

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