By Tanya Dimitrova
They still call the Balkans “the Powder Keg of Europe.” For good reason too: bloody ethnic and religious conflicts in the past decades have left hundreds of thousands dead and millions displaced. As recently as 2001, the army in Macedonia was fighting with ethnic Albanians, many of them from Kosovo.
However, in the past seven years a rare and charismatic wild cat – the Balkan lynx (Lynx lynx balcanicus) – is serving to unify countries with troubled historical and political relations. Albania, Macedonia, Kosovo and Montenegro are collaborating on a joint conservation strategy for the Critically Endangered animal.
Lynx, like their larger distant cousins the cougars, like to roam and hunt in huge areas (up to 200 square miles). They do not know or respect political borders. Each country is proud of having this species on its territory. However, to ensure lynx’s long-term survival, each has no choice but to cooperate with the neighboring countries.
“For anyone, who knows some basic Balkan history, this is quite amazing,” says Aleksandër Trajçe, one of the Project Managers for the Balkan Lynx Recovery Program.
Lynx on the Balkans
A genetically distinct subspecies of the Eurasian lynx, the Balkan lynx is critically endangered with less than 60 individuals surviving in the wild. It is only known to roam the forests of two Balkan countries: Macedonia and Albania. Researchers believe that there might be some lynx also in Kosovo and Montenegro. More....