Česká verze

Up to four lynx killed by poachers in Bavaria

16.6.2015, Carnivores.cz

Four severed lynx paws were left near camera traps installed to monitor the Eurasian lynx the horrific discovery shocked probably all zoologists and conservationists in neighbouring Bavaria. What are the circumstances of this case?

Bavarian region Lamer Winkel adjacent to the Bavarian Forest National Park lies near the Czech border. The idyllic nature of local landscape is characterized by secluded woods and meadows, rushing streams and rocky outcrops. Local villages attract tourists with the slogan Pure nature, living traditions, the Bavarian way of life. Not only has the area gained popularity among tourists, hunters, fishermen, and climbers; local woods also became the home of a few rare and shy big cats the Eurasian lynx. Two of them, a female named Leonie and a male called Leo, were until recently regularly captured by the camera traps installed by the zoologists of the Bavarian Research Project Luchsprojekt Bayern. Regular monthly checks of monitoring devices were providing evidence of the permanent presence of these animals. During the last six weeks, however, no large carnivores were photographed on the lynx trail, says Sybille Wölfl, the head of the project. Are Leonie and Leo still alive? Sybille cannot be sure but she worries about them...

Camera trap images of Leo and Leonie. Source: Luchsprojekt Bayern

A similar situation, when some of the monitored lynx had simply disappeared, happened before. Such individuals were nicknamed ‘the lynx of Bermuda Triangle’. The remains of two of them were found: in 2012, it was a female Tessa who had eaten a carbofuran poisoned bait. A year later, a poacher shot a pregnant female. Another macabre discovery was now made by Sybille Wölfl and her husband Manfred near their home.

The remains of Tessa a female lynx poisoned by carbofuran in 2012 (Source: NP Bayrischer Wald) and the pregnant female poached in 2013 (source: Polizei Niederbayern).

Manfred Wölfl is a zoologist at the National Environment Agency in charge of the protection of large carnivores. One camera trap belonging to the research project is hidden in the woods about one kilometre from Wölflshome. It is a twenty-five-minute walk to check it. Two weeks ago, Manfred Wölfl set off for his usual walk and, near the camera trap, found a severed front leg of a lynx including the shoulder joint. He and Sybille then searched the area and discovered three more front legs separated in the same manner altogether there were two left and two right legs. All were in the close vicinity of the place where the zoologists regularly walk to check the camera traps.

The remains of these rare animals are now being examined by experts of the Berlin Zoological Institute and the Genetic Research Institute. Lynx limbs were chewed by foxes and spread over the woods. Furthermore, they were in various stages of decomposition. Despite that, the scientists now need to compare the DNA samples to determine, in particular, whether they come from two, three or even four individual lynx. Unfortunately, reference material is only available for Leo, the male lynx. The additional aim of the analyses is to provide any evidence against the poacher or poachers responsible for the crime.

The person in charge of the investigation is the chief inspector Bernhard Hager of the Bad Kötzting police station. In the local area, lynx have recently fallen out of grace, making the front pages of local newspapers. The rocky region used to be a popular climbing destination. Following the conservationists’ efforts, the 37-hectare area is now closed to the public in order to ensure the strict protection of the Eurasian lynx; this has resulted in a heated dispute and the lynx, as well as the people protecting them, now being viewed as a problem. It is too soon for the police to draw any conclusions of their extensive investigation; the investigators have not even established yet whether the remains belong to any local lynx there is a possibility that the paws may have been brought from a different area or even kept in the freezer for some time. The investigation will move forward when the results of more analyses are available.

Public help is also expected. The Bavarian Environment Minister Ulrike Scharf offered a reward of 10,000 Euro for any information leading to the exposure of the poacher or a clue which would help the investigation. The question is whether the reward is high enough to break the wall of silence hit by anyone seeking the reasons why the lynx outside of the national park are under such threat. What motivates the person who left a provocative mark behind in the form of severed paws? He might be trying to repeat the scenario which unfolded in 2000 in Bern, Switzerland. A hunting inspector had received a similar ghastly package four lynx paws – through the post.

Given the fact that these are not isolated cases, conservation organizations have been calling for the formation of a central, specially trained police unit dedicated to the investigation of poaching. According to Kay Frober of the conservation organization BUND Naturschutz, the latest case is further proof of how safe the poachers feel from the local police. The establishment of a central police unit is also supported by the Bavarian Hunting Association; in 2014, the German parliament received a petition asking for the unit’s creation signed by 12,000 people. The Minister of Interior, thought, has not yet ordered its establishment.

The lynx in the Lamer Winkel region belong to the Czech-Bavarian-Austrian population of the Eurasian lynx inhabiting the core area consisting of the national parks on both sides of the border. The monitoring of lynx in Bavaria has been running for several years. It shows that, although the areas adjacent to the national park provide a suitable environment for their permanent presence, the number of lynx decreases with the increasing distance from the boundary of the national park. The lynx have not even managed to colonize all areas within immediate reach.




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