The Slovenia Times

Lynx population saved from extinction

Environment & Nature
The lynx Blisk released into the Snežnik forests. Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

Slovenia's lynx population has grown to some 50 adults since a dozen new animals have been relocated to the country's forests to revive the gene pool and save the species from re-extinction as part of an EU-funded project that is now coming to an end. The size of the population augurs well for the future of the species.

A total of 18 lynx have been brought to Slovenia and Croatia from a stable lynx population in the Carpathian Mountains in Slovakia and Romania since the Life Lynx project started in 2017 to save the population in the Dinaric and South-East Alpine regions from extinction due to inbreeding.

Fourteen have successfully integrated into the local populations, producing over 30 offspring, which the project's partners see as a sign for optimism.

Life Lynx has been largely financed by the EU as part of the LIFE programme and has brought together eleven partners from Slovenia, Croatia, Italy, Slovakia and Romania.

The partners find it particularly important that a "'stepping-stone population' has been established in the Slovenian Alps, which will allow a connection with lynx in Austria and, in the long run, via Italy, with Switzerland, because only larger connected populations ensure the long-term survival of the lynx".

It is also encouraging that five lynx introduced to the Slovenian Alps have established their own territories in the wider area and have had offspring that are already establishing territories of their own.

The efforts to increase the lynx population in Slovenia have been further reinforced by the lynx released into the wild in Italy under the ULyCa2 project.

Of around 50 adult lynx in Slovenia, around ten are in the Alps in the north-west and around 40 in the Dinaric Alps further to the south.

"The goal is for these two parts of the population to get connected, which is essential for the long-term conservation of the species in Slovenia," Rok Černe, the project's coordinator at the Forest Service, was quoted as saying in a press release issued on 20 March.

"With the Life Lynx project, we have succeeded, with a lot of effort, in preventing the lynx from becoming extinct again in this part of Europe," he added.

The lynx population in Slovenia started decreasing at the end of the 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 has solved that problem.

"Since the start of the project, we have increased the number of adult lynx in Slovenia from the brink of extinction, when there were only 20 adult lynx, to around 50," Miha Krofel from the Ljubljana Biotechnical Faculty said.

"The population is also expanding in terms of territory, which gives hope that it will link up with one of the neighbouring lynx populations and allow the natural flow of genes," he added.

However, a major obstacle to the Dinaric and Alpine lynx populations getting connected is the Ljubljana-Koper motorway, which does not have a green bridge to allow these elusive wild cats to cross.


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