The Balkan Lynx is one of the most endangered animals in Europe, and its fate is getting more uncertain, according to a new report by the Balkan Lynx Recovery Programme in 2021.
The organisation placed 151 monitoring devices across Kosovo, Albania, and North Macedonia to track the animals for four months. But they only picked up a handful of sightings, including one in Kosovo, four across two areas of Albania and just five in the Mavrovo National Park in North Macedonia.
They said the low numbers in North Macedonia are particularly concerning as the region is considered crucial to their survival, and three years ago, the number was double.
The Balkan Lynx is a subspecies of the Eurasian Lynx and is considered the largest cat in the Balkans. It lives predominantly in the mountains that separate Albania, Kosovo and North Macedonia. It is considered critically endangered in Albania since 1969 but instances of illegal poaching has still been reported over the years.
As for why they are decreasing, the experts are not sure. To get a more comprehensive view of the picture, they decided to extend the study to seven other locations indefinitely. But the result was not positive.
Biologists believe that the degradation of their natural habitats is at least partly responsible. Unsustainable forestry felling is one of the main culprits, with Albania losing nearly 7% of its forests between 2000 and 2021, a number that has likely risen since. In North Macedonia, the number is almost 5% during the same period.
Other interventions such as construction, roads, ski slopes, and other projects lead Lynx to abandon certain areas. This can lead to smaller packs and less reproduction.
Experts say that even if the habitat issue is solved, the reproduction rate of the Lynx is so low they would disappear in a few generations. As it is now, around 30 are estimated to remain in the whole region.