Lynx lynx ssp. balcanicus 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Carnivora Felidae

Scientific Name: Lynx lynx ssp. balcanicus Buresh, 1941
Parent Species:
See Lynx lynx
Common Name(s):
English Balkan Lynx
Taxonomic Source(s): Mirić, Đ. 1978. Lynx lynx martinoi ssp. nova (Carnivora, Mammalia) – neue Luchsunterart von der Balkanhalbinsel. Bulletin Museum Hist. Nat., Belgrade 33: 29-36.
Taxonomic Notes: The Balkan Lynx was first described as a separate subspecies in 1941 by the Bulgarian zoologist Ivan Buresh (Buresh 1941). The name that Buresh gave to the Balkan Lynx was Lynx lynx balcanicus. Later on, the Serbian mammologist Đorđe Mirić conducted more thorough research, mainly focusing on morphometric skull measurements. He sampled 29 lynx specimens from the Balkans and noted differences in the size of the specimens compared to the neighbouring Carpathian population, as well as compared to specimens from Scandinavia and the Caucasus (Mirić 1978). Mirić changed the subspecies name of the Balkan Lynx to Lynx lynx martinoi with no further references to Buresh (1941). New results from genetic research have confirmed that the Balkan Lynx is indeed different from the Carpathian Lynx and should be considered a distinct subspecies (Gugolz et al. 2008, Breitenmoser et al. 2008). According to the International Code for Zoological Nomenclature, the first given name of the taxon is valid for scientific use.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered D ver 3.1
Year Published: 2015
Date Assessed: 2015-01-08
Assessor(s): Melovski, D., Breitenmoser, U., von Arx, M., Breitenmoser-Würsten, C. & Lanz, T.
Reviewer(s): Mallon, D. & Linnell, J.
Contributor(s): Avukatov, V., Hoxha, B., Ivanov, G., Mersini, K., Stojanov, A. & Trajçe, A.
According to the IUCN Red List Criteria, 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 total size of the population is estimated to be 27-52 independent (adult and subadult) lynx, corresponding to about 20–39 mature individuals. The range is divided into two nuclei, indicating population fragmentation. During 1990-1995 as well as 1996-2001 Pan-European assessments based on experts from the regional countries indicated a decrease for both population size and distribution range. The latest assessments conducted by the Balkan Lynx Recovery Programme in Macedonia, Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro have revealed a stabilization in population size and area of occupancy since about 2008. The continuous presence of the Balkan Lynx is so far only confirmed for Macedonia and Albania in two separate, but relatively close locations, therefore the population is considered to consist of two subpopulations. Camera-trapping surveys resulted in a single observation from Kosovo, possibly a dispersing animal. The presence of the Balkan Lynx in Montenegro and Greece is presently regarded as unlikely. The only known area with reproduction is Mavrovo National Park and its vicinity in Macedonia, the larger and eastern of the two subpopulations.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The Balkan Lynx is distributed in the south-west Balkans, Albania, Macedonia and potentially Kosovo, Montenegro and Greece are countries sharing this scattered and fragmented population. Albania: Lynx occur on Munella Mt. and its surroundings in central-north Albania (Trajçe et al. 2014) and Shebenik-Jabllanica NP on the eastern border with Macedonia. No reproduction was detected in this western subpopulation in recent years. Reports of lynx sightings in the northern part of Albania (the Albanian Alps) have not been confirmed by intensive camera trapping. Macedonia: western part, mainly in the areas in and between the Mavrovo, Galichica and Pelister (Karaorman, Ilinska-Plakenska Mts.) national parks, but probably also in the Shar Planina Mts. bordering with Kosovo. In December 2010, a camera-trapping survey revealed individuals in the central-north part of Macedonia (Jasen PA) (Melovski et al. 2013), however, they could not be confirmed in 2014. Kosovo: a camera-trap photo confirmed the lynx presence in Prokletije Mt. (Bjeshket e Nemuna) in March 2015. Beside this record, there are only 30-40 years old records from the southern border with Macedonia (Shar Planina Mts.) and Prokletije Mt. (Bjeshket e Nemuna) western part, bordering with Albania and Montenegro. Montenegro: A Baseline Survey in 2013 revealed that two individuals had been killed in 2002 at the southern border with Albania and Kosovo (Prokletije Mt.). Their current presence is however unlikely. Greece: periodically single, unconfirmed observations are reported from the border regions of Greece with Macedonia and Albania. Assumed lynx occurrence at the Nestos River delta, east Greece close to the Turkish border (Panayotopoulou and Godes 2004) was never confirmed by any reliable evidence. Their current presence in Greece is unlikely.
Countries occurrence:
Albania; Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of; Serbia (Kosovo)
Additional data:
Estimated area of occupancy (AOO) - km2:5000Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Yes
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:16613
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):UnknownExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Number of Locations:2Continuing decline in number of locations:No
Lower elevation limit (metres):600
Upper elevation limit (metres):2000
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:The Balkan Lynx is the smallest and most threatened native Eurasian Lynx subpopulation. It experienced a severe bottleneck in 1935-1940 with an estimated number of only 15-20 individuals (Mirić 1981). After World War II the population started to recover, especially in Kosovo and Macedonia. In the 1960-70s, it also reappeared in Montenegro. In 1974 the population was estimated at 280 lynx (Mirić 1981). Based on expert opinion from the range countries, the population was estimated between 80 and 105 individuals in 2000 (von Arx et al. 2004). Three intensive camera-trapping surveys in its core area (Macedonia's Mavrovo National Park) in 2008, 2010 and 2013 (study area ~400 km2) revealed a minimum number of seven to nine independent individuals,  and a population density of 0.83±0.25 individuals per 100 km2 (Melovski et al. 2008, Stojanov et al. in prep.). The population size was calculated taking into account the surface of the estimated distribution range or area of occupancy (5,000 km2) multiplied by the population density and its standard deviation and divided by 100 (population density is for independent individuals per 100 km2 from camera trapping, corrected for an estimated 25% subadult lynx). The results are 20–39, with a mean of 30 mature individuals (Melovski et al. in prep.). The higher value is most likely an overestimate due to the fact that the results from the camera-trapping are obtained from the supposed core area of the Balkan Lynx.
Current Population Trend:Stable
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:20-39Continuing decline of mature individuals:No
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:No
No. of subpopulations:2Continuing decline in subpopulations:No
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:The Balkan Lynx occupies mountainous terrain in the most southern parts of the Dinaric range and throughout the northern part of the Scardo-Pindic range. Main habitats are: deciduous (beech, oak, hornbeam, hop-hornbeam), evergreen (fir and pine), mixed forests (fir-beech), but also fragmented forests and bush habitats. It uses rocky and sunny sites for day beds. In the summer period, it occasionally visits high-mountain pastures. Shrub lands and cultivated areas (rural fields and mountain meadows) are visited primarily for hunting. Preliminary data from ongoing telemetry studies indicate that Balkan Lynx diet consists of Roe Deer 65%, Chamois 11%, Brown Hare 11%, Marten 7% and Fox 6% (Melovski et al. 2011).
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Yes
Generation Length (years):4
Movement patterns:Not a Migrant

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Rumours persist that furs of poached individuals are transported to Greece for sale. One fur was registered by the Balkan Lynx team in Macedonia but the actual transport was never confirmed.

Despite the legal status of protection, stuffed individuals are used as decoration ornaments in some restaurants in the countryside of Macedonia and Albania.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The general and most serious threats to the Balkan Lynx population are: small population size, limited prey base, habitat degradation (especially in Albania) and poaching. The fact that the population size is estimated to be only 20-39 mature individuals is posing a great threat of extinction to the Balkan Lynx. The metapopulation is most probably divided into two subpopulations in a relatively fragmented landscape. More knowledge is needed to define the most important dispersal corridors. Poaching is posing a threat in two ways: directly, through loss of individuals and indirectly, through loss of lynx prey (Roe Deer, Chamois, Brown Hare) (Melovski et al. 2013). Poor lynx habitat is generally an issue in Albania. Over-exploited forests throughout the 19th and 20th century have a hard time to recover. Moreover, the civil unrest in Albania in 1997 led to a large increase in availability of firearms, which led to widespread over-hunting of game species in the countryside. A similar situation followed in Macedonia and Kosovo during the conflicts in 1999 and 2001. Throughout the range there is a need to improve hunting management of the game species (Roe Deer, Chamois, hares) that constitute lynx prey. Tourist resorts and recreational activities have an insignificant effect on the population. Still, sport-hunting (of ungulates) and ski resorts can be considered disturbances within the area of the national parks, where most of the Balkan lynx population exists. The expansion of the native Carpathian population (through Eastern Serbia) and the reintroduced (from the Carpathian subspecies) Dinaric Lynx population (though Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina) may pose a threat to the genetic integrity of the Balkan population. Social sciences studies indicate that public attitudes towards the lynx are generally positive, although the species is very poorly known among the public, and a great deal of misconceptions exist concerning its size, behaviour and ecology (Lescureux and Linnell 2010, Lescureux et al. 2011, Trajce 2010). Conflicts with livestock are low (Keci et al. 2008).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The Eurasian Lynx is included in Appendix II of CITES, protected under the Bern Convention (Appendix III) and strictly protected under the EU Habitats and Species Directive (Annexes II and IV).

The Balkan Lynx is fully protected by law in all range countries. A recovery strategy and two (Macedonia and Albania) National Action Plans for the Balkan Lynx exist, however, they are not ratified by the relevant ministries. A separate Action Plan for Albania was published in 2007 (Bego 2007) and recognized by the Albanian Ministry of Environment. So far, no actions from this action plan have been implemented. An advanced version of the Macedonian Action Plan dedicated only to the core area (Mavrovo National Park) has been developed with the park in 2013. In 2015 this Action Plan was approved by the park officials and its implementation is under way.
  1. A three-year project named "Balkan Lynx Recovery Programme" (BLRP) started in Macedonia and Albania in 2006 after several years of preparation (Breitenmoser-Würsten and Breitenmoser 2001, von Arx et al. 2004). The project's aim was to combine lynx protection and the establishment of new protected areas (prime lynx habitats) in MKD and ALB. The Balkan Lynx was chosen as a flagship and umbrella species. The project's main goals were: survey and monitoring of the Balkan Lynx, collecting baseline information on Balkan Lynx distribution, population trend, abundance, prey availability etc., developing a range wide Conservation Strategy and National Action Plans, define areas along the European Green Belt in the Balkan Lynx distribution and lobby for their proclamation as protected areas, and to build professional partnership consisting of relevant stakeholders in the field of nature protection (Breitenmoser et al. 2008). The project was sponsored by the Swiss-based MAVA Foundation. In parallel with these activities a Human Dimension project started in both countries and was funded by the Research Council of Norway. The objective of this project was to investigate the human-large carnivore relationship, possible conflicts, and the attitudes of the local people, and to build the capacities to meet the challenges of cross border cooperation in large carnivore conservation.
  2. A second phase of the Balkan Lynx Recovery Programme started in 2010 as a continuation of the previously defined goals and activities. The need for ground-truth data on Balkan Lynx biology and ecology led to the first scientific project called: Status, ecology and land-tenure system of the critically endangered Balkan lynx in Macedonia and Albania (Breitenmoser et al. 2012). The project was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation under the SCOPES programme (Scientific Cooperation between Eastern Europe and Switzerland). The project started in 2010 and lasted until the end of the second phase of BLRP 2012. During this period, three male individuals were captured and fitted with GPS collars, one intensive camera-trapping survey was conducted in the core area and a wildlife monitoring network was created consisting of motivated and knowledgeable people.
  3. The third phase of the BLRP project (2013-2016) focuses mainly on two major goals: to work intensively on the monitoring and action plan development within the areas where Balkan Lynx are present (Mavrovo NP and Munella Mt.), to expand the project's activities to include Montenegro and Kosovo by conducting a baseline survey in both countries. This phase also focuses on awareness rising at local, national and international levels, as well as on education-based activities for pupils in primary schools.

Errata [top]

Errata reason: The Albanian Alps has different names in each of Kosovo (where it is known as 'Bjeshket e Nemuna'), Montenegro ('Prokletije') and Albania ('Albanian Alps'). Mention of 'Albanian Alps' in the Kosovo section of the Distribution text was therefore replaced with 'Bjeshket e Nemuna'.

Citation: Melovski, D., Breitenmoser, U., von Arx, M., Breitenmoser-Würsten, C. & Lanz, T. 2015. Lynx lynx ssp. balcanicus (errata version published in 2016). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T68986842A87999432. . Downloaded on 15 August 2018.
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