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International Lynx Day - Celebrate Europe's Wild Cat


11 June 2019, Vienna - After several decades of low numbers, the lynx is slowly making a comeback in our forests. The Eurasian lynx was once quite common in most of Europe. Nevertheless, most original populations became extinct, or their abundance has been dramatically reduced in the last two centuries due to relentless persecution, landscape changes, and habitat fragmentation that hinder migration. In addition, non-harmonised (national) monitoring and management hamper a coordinated approach. The challenge is to integrate lynx monitoring, conservation and management into a common strategy at the transnational level.

In many areas, lynx were intentionally eradicated by humans. However, starting from the 1970s, lynx were ensured legal protection and reintroduction programmes began. Lynx currently number around 9000 in Europe, of which 2300-2400 are found in the Carpathian Basin. Successful reintroduction into their appropriate habitats strongly depends on acceptance by the general public. International Lynx Day is a collaborative initiative of the transboundary 3Lynx Project. Public events are being organised in several countries to raise awareness and gain greater attention for this endangered species.



The Situation in Central and Eastern Europe
The lynx disappeared from Hungary around the time of WWI, but clues to their reappearance began to be found (scat, tracks, hair) again in the 1980s. Camera traps in the Börzsöny, Bükk, Tarna Hills, Aggtelek Karst and Zemplén have recorded increasingly more evidence of their permanent settlement in Hungary. This elusive big cat has been highly protected since 1993, and was named Hungary’s Mammal of the Year in 2019 through the annual Vadonleső Programme. For more information, please see www.vadonleso.hu

In Ukraine, lynx are found in the Carpathian and Polissia Regions, and enjoy protected status. However, there is still not enough data about the lynx population and its trends. In order to develop appropriate monitoring and research strategies, establish current threats and to ensure proper habitat conservation and management, WWF-Ukraine and WWF-Poland have begun a joint data collection initiative. WWF-Ukraine launched the "Save the Lynx Programme" to engage the public and improve effective conservation efforts at both the regional and national levels.

Approximately 1200-1500 lynx are living within a 6000 km2 area of Romania. According to the experts, the Romanian lynx population is quite healthy and occupies a broad variety of landscapes in the Carpathian Mountains. The biggest threats to the population are habitat disturbance and fragmentation, degradation of forest habitats, lack of a science-based population management, reduction of prey availability due to the over hunting and poaching, and diseases and parasites spread by stray cats and dogs. WWF-Romania currently operates two projects dedicated to large carnivores – including the lynx. These projects focus on improving the ecological connectivity of their habitats, and advancing human-large carnivore coexistence. WWF-Romania’s webpage on lynx can be found here (in Romanian).

The largest lynx population in the Western Carpathians is found in Central and Eastern Slovakia, consisting of 300-350 individuals. These lynx are a source of natural population dispersion to surrounding countries. According to 5 years of systematic research, the core population is in good shape. However, despite strict protection, the high rate of poaching and fragmentation of habitats has meant that the numbers are stagnating.

International Lynx Day
On International Lynx Day, WWF-Ukraine announced the official launch of the "Save the Lynx" conservation programme in partnership with Morshynska – one of the largest Carpathian-based natural mineral water companies. To celebrate, WWF-Ukraine prepared a “How much do you know about the Lynx?" quiz. The quiz, as well as a special lynx frame available to modify Facebook profile pictures, is accessible on their website and Instagram.

The Hungarian Vadonleső Programme has planned lynx-related activities throughout the year, including a Lynx Dreams Exhibit at the Hungarian Natural History Museum, a Lynx Run, professional workshops, and a Lynx Gala in November. For more information, please see www.vadonleso.hu (in Hungarian).

European Approach
The Eurasian lynx is a highly endangered species, protected under national laws and the EU Habitat Directive. Adult lynx weigh between 20-35 kg, and measure 70 cm in height at the withers. The lynx usually starts its day at dusk, but during the mating season it may travel during daytime. Otherwise, they tend to spend their days resting in the shelter of a rock break, cave entrance, or under an old tree. Its menu consists mainly of wood mice, deer, fox, and sometimes unprotected calves. Lynx are territorial animals that roam areas of up to 400 square kilometres, meaning that lynx regularly cross borders and their home territories often overlap several countries. Therefore, lynx require coherent forests to survive. One of the reasons for its rarity is that the lynx insists on undisturbed, dense old forests for its habitat, a condition that is becoming more and more difficult to fulfil in Europe. In order to effectively protect the lynx, a European approach at a scientific, political and public level is absolutely essential. Linking Central European populations with each other is the key for the long-term survival of the species.

The Danube-Carpathian Region – also known as the Green Heart of Europe - is home to some two-thirds of Europe’s populations of large carnivores, including brown bears, wolves and lynx. Bears and other large carnivores suffer from illegal hunting. But arguably a greater, longer-term threat lies in the fragmentation and degradation of their habitats e.g. from infrastructure construction. Conflicts between people and large carnivores are also growing, mostly due to inappropriate behaviour by people. WWF is addressing these problems by focusing its efforts on securing critical corridors and conservation areas, e.g. in the southwest Carpathians (the Lugoj-Deva motorway construction) and in Maramures. We also promote public awareness regarding large carnivores to increase the appreciation and understanding of these magnificent animals and their vital role in managing ecosystems, as well as to help people avoid unnecessary conflicts with them.

The challenge is to integrate lynx monitoring, conservation, and management of conflicts between stakeholders. With the right incentives, things can change.

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