The Rewilding Foundation is currently supporting the Dinaric lynx project in Croatia. Here’s the background story.
The Dinaric Mountains, extending along the coast of the Adriatic Sea from Slovenia to Albania, host a rich fauna, including European largest carnivores – brown bear, grey wolf, golden jackal and Eurasian lynx. While bear, wolf and jackal populations are stable or even increasing, lynx population is unfortunately facing another extinction. Severe human prosecution caused extinction of autochthonous lynx population from the Dinaric Mountains in the beginning of the 20th century. Present, reintroduced Dinaric lynx population was founded by six animals reintroduced from Slovakia to Slovenia in 1973. Their offspring expanded from Slovenia, through Croatia and all the way to Bosnia and Herzegovina. But after initial success and a period of stabilization, during the last 10 – 15 years size of the reintroduced population is decreasing and it is estimated that today about 15 – 20 lynx are present in Slovenia, 30 – 40 in Croatia, while population size in Bosnia and Herzegovina is unknown. Low genetic diversity and inbreeding, consequences of the fact that population was founded by six animals, are the main threat for the survival of the population.
Unfortunately, in spite of the legal protection poaching is still present, and when combined with traffic mortality, prey base depilation and genetic problems, the future of this population is very questionable. Translocation of new animals from Carpathian Mountains is considered as the optimal (and only) solution for the survival of this wonderful animal in the Dinaric Mountains. Partners from Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, Italy, Slovakia and Romania united in a project entitled “Reinforcement, reintroduction and population level management of the dying out Dinaric – SE Alpine lynx population”. We hope that this project will be co-financed by European Commission trough LIFE program and that actions planned in this project will pave the way for long-term viability of lynx in the Alps and Dinaric Mountains.
In the case of small, isolated and endangered populations, like reintroduced Dinaric lynx population, it is essential to use appropriate scientific methods to monitor population status. This way we gather data necessary for appropriate management and conservation actions. During the last few years, besides genetic research, camera-trapping is the main tool used for lynx monitoring in Croatia. Since 2011 about 500 lynx photos were collected and 19 individuals were identified. Our goal for 2015 is to increase the number of camera traps so we could monitor a larger area and estimate lynx population size.
– By Magda Sindicic – Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Zagreb