Scientists warn that Šumava could lose introduced lynx population

Lynx, photo: Silke Sohler, Creative Commons 3.0

A newly-released study from a team of scientists has warned that efforts to reintroduce the Eurasian lynx into the Šumava region may end in failure. A lynx population was brought to the area from Slovakia back in the 1970s. By the 1990s, around 100 animals lived in an around the national park. But an upsurge in poaching has seen that number reduced to around 65. I spoke with Miroslav Kutal of environmental group Hnutí duha – which has just held a three-day international event in southern Bohemia focused on the future of the lynx in Europe – and began by asking why the lynx was under threat:

Lynx,  photo: Silke Sohler,  Creative Commons 3.0
“One reason is probably poaching. Because habitat quality is quite good, and habitat analyses conducted in the region suggest there is still plenty left in the area for the lynx. So the most likely reason for the decrease or stagnation of the population is poaching.”

Who is poaching the animals and why?

“Poaching is not actually a problem inside the national park, but rather mostly in the surrounding area of the Šumava. Specifically, this pertains to neighbouring land which belongs to private hunting companies and forms private hunting grounds. Another problem is the greater acceptance by some hunters of killing lynx. A questionnaire conducted in the Šumava mountains a year ago revealed that many hunters have quite negative opinions of lynxes. And some hunters even confessed to hunting them.”

So are they poached because they are viewed as a pest, or is it simply as a prize for hunters?

“Some of the hunters regard lynxes as pests. The second reason is trophy hunting – they just want to have hunted a species to hang on their walls.”

A team of scientists from Germany, Poland and Russia have just published a study looking at the future of the lynx population, and they predict the animal could disappear entirely from the Šumava. So what do you believe can be done to protect the lynx and to keep it in the Šumava region?

Miroslav Kutal,  photo: archive of Hnutí duha
“The problem is that these populations were introduced from 17 or 18 animals. So the genetic variation is not very high. In the future, the best thing would be to connect the Šumava population with other populations, mainly those in the Carpathians. If this doesn’t occur, there is a danger of a continued degradation of genetic variety and the further decrease in numbers, and even possible extinction of the lynx. So we should be able to protect some important wildlife corridors surrounding the Šumava region. And maybe in the future it might be necessary to import some new animals.”