WWF strives to bring back Lynx to Bulgarian forests

WWF strives to bring back Lynx to Bulgarian forests
WWF strives to bring back Lynx to Bulgarian forests

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - SOFIA —One of the biggest challenges faced by large carnivores in Bulgaria is their need for large territories and the need for connectivity between their habitats, which are not always within the borders of just one country.

That is why it is necessary to establish new territories with varying degrees of protection to connect fragmented habitats and create conditions for the return of long-extinct species in the country, said the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

The WWF is launching the second phase of its One Home. One Future campaign dedicated to the conservation of wildlife in Bulgaria. The Bulgarian News Agency (BTA) is a media partner of the campaign.

The campaign focuses on restoring habitats that provide homes and food for diverse populations of key ecosystem species. Through the campaign, WWF aims to help build a future where people live in harmony with nature and its inhabitants.

Nada Tosheva, head of the Species Conservation Program at WWF, said that the lynx is a key species for the Bulgarian ecosystem, because key species control the dominance of other species as well as the change of habitat structure.

According to her, the presence of lynx also means that the ecosystem — which provides people with water, clean air, food, raw materials for medicines and energy — is also healthy. WWF is working towards creating new protected areas, she added.

The last officially documented Balkan lynx in Bulgaria was killed in 1941. Since then, the species has been considered extinct from the country, WWF noted.

Over the past 15 years, more and more, albeit unofficial, reports of lynx being spotted or illegally killed in Bulgaria have begun to emerge. In autumn 2008, a photo trap set up in Osogovo to monitor badgers recorded a young male lynx.

This is believed to be the first real evidence of lynx presence in the country. Whether we will create conditions for the development of its population depends only on us, said Alexander Dutsov, senior expert at WWF’s Species Conservation Program.

The organization also points to the critically endangered “Danube dinosaurs” — the sturgeons. Today, the lower reaches of the Danube River, on the border between Bulgaria and Romania, are home to the last naturally breeding sturgeon populations in the European Union, experts explain.

Having survived for the past 200 million years, they now face a number of threats: poaching for the illegal meat and caviar trade; the construction of dams, dykes and hydroelectric power stations blocking their migration routes; and the extraction of sand and gravel from the riverbed, leading to the destruction of their spawning grounds.

In the long term, all of this threatens to drive these valuable species, which, like the lynx, are the most accurate indicator of the health of their ecosystem, to extinction, WWF said.

According to WWF’s Living Planet report, wildlife populations — mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish — have seen a catastrophic decline in numbers by an average of 69% since 1970.

Data show that the main drivers of declining wildlife populations worldwide are habitat loss, overexploitation of land, illegal logging, the introduction of invasive species, pollution, climate change and disease, experts said.

Thus, this year’s Earth Hour, the largest global initiative dedicated to the protection of the planet, will be marked by WWF’s efforts to restore habitats, the organization said.

The spring of 2023 will be the initiative’s 16th anniversary and will be marked in more than 7,000 cities in 190 countries.

Traditionally, on the last Saturday of March, millions of people around the world will turn off the lights in their homes between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m., making a call for a sustainable and responsible future, the organization informs.

Everyone can become part of WWF’s cause to protect wildlife in Bulgaria and other countries in Eastern and Central Europe by joining the One Home. One Future campaign.

The majestic big cat, lynx, once ruled the forests in Bulgaria along with bears and wolves. Sadly, nowadays the lynx has turned into a myth, a forest ghost, and can only be seen in pictures, documentaries and the zoo.

WWF Bulgaria team effort is a crucial factor in protecting the Bulgarian forests and wildlife. Still, there is more to be done as over 50% of old Bulgarian forests need protection.

Old Bulgarian forests are identified and protected at national level and illegal logging is steadily rooted out. The majestic lynx is less of a ghost and more of a living, breathing creature that helps restore the balance in the forest ecosystem for generations to come. — Agencies

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