Adult Balkan lynx. Image: Eigenes Werk

The Balkan lynx is one of the most critically endangered species in the world — but a recent photograph of a small cub offers hope for its survival. 

The Balkan lynx is found primarily in eastern Albania and western Macedonia and it is estimated there are less than 50 remaining individuals in the wild worldwide. The population is split between two different regions, Mavrovo National Park and the Republic of Macedonia.

These large cats inhabit deciduous, evergreen, and mixed forest habitats and they face serious threats from habitat degradation and poaching. Due to their diminishing population, the Balkan lynx recovery program started in 2006 began concerted efforts to collar and track the animals.

“When this project started almost 10 years ago there was no real proof that the population even existed,” he says. “Since then, the team have collected hundreds of camera trap pictures of lynx in both Macedonia and Albania, including evidence of reproduction,” John Durras Linnell stated to New Scientist.

The photo of this particular cub was attained after a GPS collar was placed on the mother Maya last February. The tracker led researchers to Maya’s den where long time project volunteer Panajot Chorovski discovered and photographed Maya’s kitten. This image is proof of a reproducing population in the Mavrovo National Park.

Although the image of the cub might seem like a glimmer hope for the dwindling population, only one quarter of kittens actually survive to adulthood. They face numerous challenged highlighted by disease, malnourishment, and accidents caused by road traffic.

“There is a long way to go before the future of these landscapes and their biodiversity are secure. But images like these remind us that as long as there is life, there is hope – and that is what keeps conservationists’ motivation up,” Linnell concludes.

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