Last week in the Munella Mountain (Puka region), in the only area where lynx survive in Albania, a dead lynx cub was found to have been killed and reported to PPNEA. The perpetrator is young local shepherd, who killed the lynx with stones without having knowledge on what animal it is, very near the village where he is living.
This kill is incredibly sad news, knowing that the total estimated population of lynx in Munella is between 4-6 adult individuals.
The Balkan lynx is a flagship species for the conservation of the natural heritage and ecosystems in the whole southwestern Balkans. Its total population is estimated at less than 40 mature individuals left and even the loss of a single animal poses incredible threats to the survival of the species. According to the IUCN Red List criteria, the Balkan lynx considered as Critically Endangered Species (CR). In Albania, the lynx are legally protected since 1969. Recently, the legal frame is improved by the law No. 10253, date 11.03.2010 "For the Hunting” and the law No. 7/2014, on the announcement of the hunting ban in the Republic of Albania.
The Balkan lynx is a solitary species and prefer to live in mountain areas with limited human influence. It comes to a great surprise that a lynx cub would be found in such vicinities of inhabited areas, particularly since in this period they stay with their mothers. The presence of lone cubs in this period happens only in cases when the mother dies (through natural death or through poaching), which would make the case even more critical.
Furthermore, habitat degradation is rampant in Munella and this might be contributing to distorted behavior of lynx as well as increase possibilities of human-lynx contact. PPNEA has documented illegal logging on a large scale over Munella Mountain and this shows no sign of stopping.
Despite this negative occurrence, the discovery of a killed lynx cub remains very important from a scientific discovery point of view as it further proves that Munella holds a reproductive population of Balkan lynx. As such, Munella, is to date, one of the two areas in the entire Balkans where lynx reproduce, together with Mavrovo National Park in Macedonia.
This incident is a call for three urgent actions that need to take place in Munella Mountain in Albania, in order to minimize the chances of such negative occurrences in the future: (i) strong awareness raising campaigns with the locals to promote the importance of Munella in the preservation of Balkan lynx, (ii) immediately halt illegal logging and habitat destruction going on in Munella mountain (ii) give the area a protection status as soon as possible and integrate it within the network of protected areas of the country.
PPNEA has long been stressing the importance of Munella for Balkan lynx conservation, but to date there is no sign of interest by relevant governmental institutions to protect the only habitat where Balkan lynx survives in Albania.
The Balkan lynx was recently recognized as a Critically Endangered subspecies by the IUCN Red List. Thus, losing the only remaining Balkan lynx population in Albania is not just a loss for the country itself, but a major threat for the survival of the entire subspecies on the global level.