The Eurasian lynx was present on the European territory for quite a long period of time. At some point in history, however, its populations within the region were dramatically reduced. More than that, for some sub-species, most of the original populations even became extinct.
To ensure the prompt reintroduction of these animals in Europe, numerous steps have been taken since the late 1970’s. These steps, in turn, have lead us to something that we celebrate today as the International Lynx Day.
Brief historical background
The Eurasian lynx was once widely distributed across Europe. During the 19th century, their populations were largely reduced. The key factors that have contributed to the reduction of the Eurasian lynx population at that time were habitat loss and human persecution.
Human persecution was reflected in the amount of lynx that were illegally killed for trophies. The trophies, in turn, were then sold worldwide at an unimaginable price. To find out more about this topic, check the video from the past hunter, who is currently known to be among the most recognisable lynx conservationists in Slovakia (indeed – a very controversial but supremely notable transition!):
Current lynx conservation status in Europe
Alongside other large carnivores in Europe, lynx was reintroduced in Europe back in the 1970s in Switzerland, Slovenia, Croatia, France, Italy, the Czech Republic, Germany and Austria. Due to the successful reintroduction, these animals currently number around 9000-10000 in Europe. Of these, 2300-2400 are found in the Carpathian Basin.
If we talk the whole Europe, then, in this region, lynx is protected by the following three directives:
- The Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of the Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) which monitors the trade in wild animals and plants.
- The Bern Convention, an agreement for the preservation and protection of European wild plants and animals and their habitats.
- The FFH directive (Flora-Fauna-Habitat Directive 92/43/EEC) which regulates the designation and conservation of habitats and wildlife and must be implemented by all EU member states in national law.
If we talk European Union specifically, then such lynx species as Iberian Lynx and Eurasian Lynx are legally protected against hunting. Their status is specifically captured within both Habitats Directive and Birds Directive.
Threats and challenges
Among the biggest threats to the current lynx populations in Europe, there are:
- habitat disturbance and fragmentation
- degradation of forest habitats
- lack of a science-based population management
- diseases and parasites spread by stray cats and dogs
Among the biggest challenges to the current populations in Europe, there are:
BEECH POWER and lynx conservation in Europe
Lynxes are territorial animals which habitat can be spread within 400 square kilometres. This, in turn, means that they have to regularly cross borders. Moreover, this also means that such cross border territories must have the undisturbed forest habitats that would serve as safe places for lynxes to exist.
Throughout Europe, however, there are not many undisturbed and dense old-growth forests left. Our Interreg BEECH POWER project focuses on the preservation of these forests and consequently the large carnivores (including lynxes) within those.
This project recognises, that when it comes to the forest preservation standards, respective environmental and socio-economic contexts differ considerably on local and national level across the whole European Union. For this reason, BEECH POWER aims to improve the management quality and effectiveness of the numerous UNESCO World Heritage sites, that include the suggested forests. By doing this, it will be possible to safeguard the ecosystem integrity among the suggested habitats and improve general capacities and active participation opportunities of relevant stakeholders within those.
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