Lynx translocated to Slovenia and Croatia to save an endangered population

The translocations are part of the LIFE Lynx project to help increase the genetic pool of the lynx population in the Dinaric Mountains.

Release of a lynx named Goru into the wild in Slovenia. © Janez Tarman

Two lynx have been released as part of a project to save the Dinaric-SE Alpine lynx population from extinction.

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These are the first lynx that Romania has contributed to a European level population reinforcement effort, with one being released in Slovenia and the other in Croatia.

With this translocation, the LIFE Lynx project continues the work of hunters, foresters and biologists that reintroduced lynx to the Dinaric Mountains in 1973.

This initial reintroduction of six individuals was a massive success and saw the population rise rapidly, however, they remained isolated from neighbouring lynx.

This led to high levels of inbreeding in the population and resulted in them having the lowest genetic diversity of all studied lynx populations.

Since genetic deterioration is the major factor threatening these lynx, the main goal of the population reinforcement is to improve the genetic outlook and reverse the population decline.

“In small populations, or populations originating from just a handful of founders, animals soon have only the option to mate with close relatives, or not mate at all,” says wildlife geneticist, Dr Tomaž Skrbinšek.

“This is what happened with lynx that were reintroduced in the Dinaric Mountains in 1973. Without new lynx, our population will inevitably go extinct in the near future.”

The current project aims to translocate a total of 14 lynx from the closest healthy lynx population in the Carpathian Mountains of Slovakia and Romania to the Dinaric Mountains and Alps in Slovenia and Croatia.

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Reintroduction specialist Derek Gow believes the project is a great idea: “This is exactly the sort of thing we are going to need more of if a whole host of species isolated by our activities are not going to continue to dwindle and die. I am sure this project will provide very useful information which could be applied to the species restoration in Britain in time.”