You would have been hard-pressed to find a wild lynx in certain parts of Europe during the 1980’s. Populations became incredibly scarce at the time, and animal conservationists fought back by reintroducing lynxes to Šumava National Park in an attempt to spur population growth in the region.
For a while, the attempt worked; but a new study published in the journal Biological Conservation concludes that lynx populations throughout parts of Europe began to decline again from 1998 to 2014.
Image Credit: Ralph Frank/WWF
To find out why, the researchers developed a computer model that could predict population trends based upon various datasets that had been collected by hidden camera traps, Earth-orbiting satellites, and random observations.
Among the things the computer model considered before spitting out its results were mortality rates, reproduction rates, and roaming ground progression. Conspicuously, unexplained lynx mortality rates were substantially higher from 1998-2014 than they were from 1982-1996.
The model suggests that human-related factors such as illegal hunting and excessive land development may have played the most significant roles in European lynx population declines.
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"Sadly this is right in the international trend when it comes to the level of mortality caused by humans," said Dr. Stephanie Kramer-Schadt of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research Berlin.
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"The probability that the population may die out again is up to 74 percent in an unfortunate case," added Dr. Marco Heurich, a conservation biologist from Freiburg.
Alarmingly, that number is up from just five percent from 1982-1996.
As it would seem, there’s a major problem at hand. Unless we change our ways, and fast, the European lynx could wind up down an irreversible path toward extinction. This means preventing illegal hunting and preserving the animal’s natural habitat so that it can thrive in the wild.
The only question now is: are we too late?