The camera sits hidden in a field ready to track every move of the Balkan lynx, a wild cat both revered as an icon and reviled as a pest that has teetered on extinction for nearly a century."The lynx has no natural enemy except man," said Georgi Ivanov, an ecologist working on a project to monitor lynx numbers in western Macedonia's Galicica National Park, where 30 such cameras have been set up.
Poaching is one of the biggest threats to the survival of this Balkan subspecies of the European lynx, the largest wild cat found on the continent.
Though its overall numbers are uncertain, they seem to hover dangerously around the 100 scientists say are needed for their population to remain stable.
In Albania and Macedonia, foreign experts put their number at less than 80 though local counterparts say there are fewer than 40. The estimates in neighbouring Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia are even worse.
Lynx are killed by villagers in the impoverished region mainly for their prized fur, a spotted golden-brown. But dwindling forests and a lack of prey are also factors in their decline, experts say.
"The main cause of the extinction threat is illegal hunting, as well as environmental destruction and, above all, uncontrolled forest cutting," said biologist Dime Melovski of the Macedonian Ecological Society.
The monitoring scheme is also underway in Mavrovo National Park, also in western Macedonia, and in Albania in cooperation with the Swiss-based research group KORA, Germany's Euronatur and the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA). More....