Logging endangers Albania’s remaining handful of Balkan lynx, watchdog warns

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times November 4, 2016 09:43

Logging endangers Albania’s remaining handful of Balkan lynx, watchdog warns

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  • "Munella, this great national treasure and a sanctuary of many wildlife species, among which the Balkan lynx, one of the rarest fauna species critically endangered at a global level, is being ruined every day," the association said in a statement

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lynxTIRANA, Nov. 3 – An Albanian watchdog has warned alleged illegal logging in the Munella Mountain, northeastern Albania, the country’s sole sanctuary of the Balkan lynx, is further putting at risk one of the most threatened wildlife species in serious danger of extinction.

The warning comes after a team of the Association for Protection and Preservation of Natural Environment in Albania inspected the Munella Mountain in the northeastern district of Puka for two days in late October when they identified through pictures mass logging despite a 10-year ban imposed this year in the local forests which are believed to host the only remaining handful of Balkan lynx species living in Albania.

“Munella, this great national treasure and a sanctuary of many wildlife species, among which the Balkan lynx, one of the rarest fauna species critically endangered at a global level, is being ruined every day,” the association said in a statement.

The watchdog says the mass logging in the local woods cannot be justified with logging for local households or local government institutions for firewood needs.

“If this pace of logging continues, the only thing that will remain to the Munella Mountain will be the beautiful memories of the past, after the certain loss of the sole remaining Balkan Lynx population in Albania,” the association says.

There has been no reaction by local or central government officials over the situation in Munella in the region of Puka, where the suspension of work at a local copper plant due to a slump in international commodity prices since late 2015 has sharply affected the local community, one of the country’s poorest.

Like elsewhere in Albania, deforestation has plagued the northern region throughout the years, leading the Albanian Parliament to adopt stiff legislation which foresees a ten-year ban on all logging in the country and also hefty fines for perpetrators beginning January 2016.

Camera trappings have captured the presence of 4-6 Balkan lynx individuals and thus dwindling habitat will almost certainly drive the species towards extinction.

Habitat loss seems to not be the only problem for the endangered species in Albania after a lynx cub was killed in late 2015 by a local shepherd sparking an outcry among environmentalists.

The Balkan lynx is a critically endangered species – only about 40 or 50 individuals are reported to exist in total. About 5-6 of these have been reported to live in the Munella Mountain in the district of Puka and Mirdita.

Back in 2015, the Balkan lynx subspecies was listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Critically Endangered.

“The continuous presence of the Balkan Lynx is so far only confirmed for Macedonia and Albania in two separate, but relatively close locations, therefore the population is considered to consist of two subpopulations. Camera-trapping surveys resulted in a single observation from Kosovo, possibly a dispersing animal. The presence of the Balkan Lynx in Montenegro and Greece is presently regarded as unlikely. The only known area with reproduction is Mavrovo National Park and its vicinity in Macedonia, the larger and eastern of the two subpopulations,” says the International Union for Conservation of Nature, IUCN.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times November 4, 2016 09:43