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© Staffan Widstrand / WWF
Eurasian Lynx
After their complete disappearance from the Alpine arc, successful reintroduction projects have given the lynx a second chance in the Alps.
Since the early 1970s, successful reintroduction programmes in France and Switzerland have already enabled the lynx (Lynx lynx) to expand its range and establish new homes.

However, despite these efforts, the limited dispersal ability of the lynx combined with the high degree of habitat fragmentation in the Alps (e.g. due to intense urbanisation across valley floors) threatens the successful re-establishment of this species in the Alps. Alpine lynx populations remain small and isolated and have already lost much of their genetic diversity (source: ELOIS). This exposes them to inbreeding problems and a reduced potential to adapt to new situations, like those presented by global warming

Another threat to lynx populations in the Alps is the low acceptance of the species across Alpine communities. As with other large carnivores, lynx are seen as competition for game and a threat to livestock. In reality, the threat of lynx to livestock is - on average - much smaller than perceived. In the Swiss Alps, for example, lynx were responsible for the mortality of only 0.4% of the total number of available sheep in 1999 (0.2% in 1998), much less than the number of deaths caused by other mortality factors (source: KORA).

What we do

Successful conservation of the lynx will require strong pan-Alpine coordination as no single Alpine country can support a long-term viable lynx population on its own. Through reintroduction projects and livestock protection measures, WWF is working to ensure a future for lynx in the Alps.


Distribution in the Alps

Distribution of the Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) in the European Alps. 
© European Alpine Programme

Captive lynx (Lynx lynx), Lycksele, Sweden. © Staffan Widstrand / WWF

REINTRODUCTION projects: WWF is working to 'link the lynx' with the goal of restoring lynx populations across the Alpine region. In France and Switzerland, successful reintroduction programmes have already enabled lynx to expand their range and establish new homes. WWF continues to be involved with lynx reintroductions, the latest being the release of two individuals in Austria's Limestone Alps.

To monitor the progress of re-established populations, WWF supported the development of two lynx monitoring projects operated by KORA: the European Lynx Online Information System (ELOIS) and the Status and Conservation of the Alpine Lynx Populations (SCALP).

Guard dogs are being trained to protect livestock from fox, raven and wolves. There is also some evidence that they have scared bears away too. Ticino, Switzerland. © Mark Schulman / WWF

LIVESTOCK PROTECTION projects: A major conflict issue that limits acceptance of large carnivores in the Alps is the presumed threat of bears, wolves, and lynx to the livestock industry. WWF is promoting the use of livestock protection strategies to enhance the acceptance of bears, wolves, and lynx in livestock herding communities in the Alps. Reintroducing the use of specially trained guard dogs and protective fences are key strategies that WWF is testing. The successful implementation of these strategies will help to reduce conflict between humans and the returning large carnivores.

Infographics for the Alpine ecoregion.
© Infographics for the Alpine ecoregion.  © WWF European Alpine Programme

Forty years after reintroduction, lynx occupy less than 20% of suitable Alpine habitat.