Today, the Balkan lynx subspecies was listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Critically Endangered. This scientific achievement comes after ten years of efforts of the Balkan Lynx Recovery Program
With the new update of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the Balkan lynx is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) under criterion D, as the number of mature individuals is estimated to be less than 50. The Balkan Lynx is the smallest and most threatened native Eurasian Lynx subpopulation.
This update arises almost one month after the International Balkan Lynx Symposium held at Dajti National Park in Albania, where nature conservation and wildlife experts, national authorities and NGO representatives met to highlight the results of 10 years of efforts for the preservation of critically endangered Balkan lynx. European experts and policymakers reviewed the status of Balkan lynx and specified the regional framework and action plan to protect this critically endangered animal. This Symposium was organized under the frame of the "Balkan Lynx Recovery Programme" (BLRP), a three-year project started in Macedonia and Albania in 2006, with aim to combine lynx protection and the establishment of new protected areas (prime lynx habitats) in Macedonia and Albania. The BLRP as a partnership project is jointly implemented by MES (Macedonian Ecological Society), PPNEA (Society for the Protection and Preservation of Natural Environment in Albania), Environmentally Responsible Action group (ERA), Protection of Birds and Nature Society in Kosovo (FINCH), CZIP (Center for Protection and Research of Birds of Montenegro), KORA (Carnivore Ecology and Wildlife Management), and the European Nature Heritage Fund (Euronatur). The project is assisted by the IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group and supported by the MAVA Foundation in Switzerland.
IUCN’s Programme Officer on Ecosystem Management, Ms Sanja Pokrajac, presented IUCN ECARO’s engagement in the Balkan Lynx range, the strategy, present projects and future initiatives. Mr Andrea Ghiurghi, Project Manager for the “Institutional Support to the management of Protected Areas in Albania”project was also present. This project in particular works in two Albanian protected areas, including the Shebenik-Jabllanicë National Park, a mountain range on the border with Macedonia where the presence of the Balkan lynx was confirmed for the first time in Albania by the researchers of the Balkan Lynx Recovery Programme. In this area the IUCN project is working with the staff of the National Agency for Protected Areas to increase the effectiveness of the area’s management and hence the protection of its rich biodiversity.
The Balkan lynx is represented by a very small population that survives mostly in the border area between Albania and Macedonia, and potentially Kosovo, Montenegro and Greece. The general and most serious threats to the Balkan Lynx population are: small population size, limited prey base, habitat degradation and poaching. The Balkan Lynx is fully protected by law in all range countries.
The recent Red List enlisting of Balkan Lynx as Critically Endangered is not encouraging, yet it shows that urgent action is needed if the population is to be saved. More investment in research, conservation measures, monitoring and strict habitat protection are the immediate first steps to be undertaken. This call for action pertains both to the national authorities and international conservation community. Experience with Iberian Lynx shows that conservation works if properly planned and applied. Just over a decade ago, the Iberian lynx was on the verge of extinction, classified as Critically Endangered (CR). But an intense conservation campaign over recent years has brought it back from the brink. Today, with population size of around 156 mature individuals in south-western Spain, the Iberian Lynx is classified as Endangered (EN).