Balkan Lynx Recovery Program
The present distribution of the Balkan lynx – described as an own subspecies Lynx lynx martinoii – is restricted to the southwest Balkans, mainly the border areas between Macedonia and Albania, spreading north into Montenegro and the Kosovo. The population is estimated to be less than 100 individuals. Biology, ecology and history of the Balkan lynx are not well understood or documented, but obvious threats have been direct persecution in the past (the lynx has been legally protected in Yugoslavia since 1973 and in Albania since 1994), decline of prey populations, and loss and fragmentation of habitat.
The critical status of this most threatened autochthonous lynx population of Europe has been known for a long time, but the war-like commotions and insecurity of the region have hindered conservation action over the past years. In 2000, scientists and wildlife conservationists have joined to produce a report on the status of the lynx in the southwest Balkans, and since then, national and international awareness has increased. Today, the governments of Macedonia and Albania are about to sign a Memorandum of Understanding for the conservation of the lynx under the auspices of the Bern Convention.
The Balkan lynx has only survived because the border region between former Yugoslavia, Albania, and Greece were areas with limited access and partly protected. Today, important remnant nuclei of the lynx occurrence are in protected areas, and the Green Belt Initiative offers the opportunity to expand and improve the protected sites. The lynx is today well known in the public and considered something unique to the region. The charismatic lynx is a flagship species for nature conservation in the Green Belt of the southwest Balkan and can in turn directly profit from an improved protection of these areas.
PPNEA jointly with its cross-border and international partners has initiated Balkan lynx conservation activities since 2005. A common effort has been made to advance in species conservation and wildlife management, and protected area management and sustainable land use. The aim of the Balkan Lynx Recovery Programme is to secure the survival of the population through a series of protected areas and improved wildlife management within and outside the PAs. To do so, we need to generate a set of baseline information and to establish a reliable monitoring programme. This implies a strong partnership between governmental and non-governmental institutions on national and international level, increased public awareness and public involvement, and – above all – capacity building in nature conservation, wildlife research, and management.