Lukaš to rejuvenate Slovenian lynx family
Slovenian forests have welcomed another male lynx from Slovakia. Lukaš was released into the forests in the north-western Gorenjska region on 19 April to join three female and one male lynx in the region.
Lukaš was captured in Slovakia in January and stayed in a quarantine enclosure in Slovenia from mid March. He is estimated to be between 3 and 5 years old and weighed 24 kilogrammes at the time of capture.
Lukaš was released into the wild with the goal to replace the male lynx Zois, who has not been seen in the region in a year. Hopefully, he will mate with Aida, one of the tree female lynxes in the region. The other lynxes in the Gorenjska region are females Julija and Lenka and a male lynx Tris.
Overall, 17 lynxes have been reintroduced to Slovenian and Croatian forests under Life Lynx, a project that aims to restore the lynx population in the Dinaric Alps and south-eastern Alps. Lukaš is the 11th and last lynx that will find his home in Slovenia.
Relocating the lynxes to the Gorenjska region had been challenging as the wildcat did not reproduce in the region before. In the two years since the relocation to the Gorenjska region the lynxes have successfully settled and the three females have all had at least one litter.
The lynxes are being tracked with automatic cameras and GPS collars as are some of their offspring. The population is further analysed using non-invasive genetic sampling and snow tracking.
The €6.8 million project, largely co-funded by the EU, started in July of 2017 and will finish next year. Members of the project hope that the state will keep funding their work long after the project concludes.
To protect and preserve the lynx in Slovenia in the long run, it is key that different lynx populations in the Dinarides and Alps connect. If the populations mixed, the natural order would be restored and there would be no need to relocate lynxes in the future, said Rok Černe, coordinator of the Life Lynx project.
The lynx population in Slovenia started decreasing at the end of 18th century as hunting became more accessible and the number of deer and other lynx prey drastically fell. In Slovenia the lynx became extinct in 1908 when the last specimen was culled.
In 1973 hunters and foresters reintroduced six lynxes to Slovenian forests. The effort to repopulate was successful at first but as the population was isolated from others, inbreeding soon became a problem.
The Life Lynx project is aiming to solve that issue by relocating the lynxes to both Croatia and Slovenia, seeking to connect the animals to other populations in the Dinarides as well.