There are less than 40 Balkan lynxes left in the world, and wildlife experts are tracking the animals in the mountains of Albania as part of a final effort to save the species from extinction.
Balkan lynxes live in the mountains in Albania, Kosovo and Albania and are now among the world’s most endangered mammals, scientists said, adding that the solitary wild cats have become the victim of deforestation and poaching in the three Balkan countries.
Albania is home to fewer than 10 Balkan lynxes, down sharply from more than 200 in the 1980s. For the past 15 years, the Protection and Preservation of Natural Environment in Albania (PPNEA) has been trying to protect the animal known locally as the “Balkans tiger”.
Detailed tracking of the lynxes with cameras is a key part of their protection, Blendi Hoxha, a coordinator of the PPNEA lynx project, said: “You have to observe them and understand their movements.”
“Any documented evidence of the presence of the lynx is watched for since it gives hope for survival,” Hoxha told news agency AFP.
Balkan lynxes, a subspecies of the Eurasian lynx, are threatened by deforestation, which is reducing the animals they feed on and fragmenting their population.
And although the animal is highly protected, the lynx has been the victim of illegal hunting. Since 2006, at least 14 lynxes have been killed in Albania, according to the PPNEA.
The last one was shot in 2020 and then stuffed and displayed in a bar in Elbasan, south of the capital Tirana, alongside the stuffed skins of other wild animals.
Albania, North Macedonia and Kosovo have joined forces within the Balkan lynx recovery programme. The countries created new zones of protection where the animals live and where they can breed, PPNEA chief Aleksander Trajce said.