North Macedonia park vote offers hope for lynx

These mountains will soon form a new national park

as voted by the North Macedonian parliament after more than 27 years of debate.

Why have they done it?

To lure back the Lynx.

This is the historic hunting ground of the Balkan Lynx.

They need hundreds of kilometres to roam, but poaching and illegal logging have shrunk the populations of the Balkan Lynx down to fewer than 50 adults.

Conservationists also note that some rural cafeterias across the Balkans still display lynx hunting trophies.

The sub-species of the Eurasian lynx was listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as critically endangered in 2015 -- the final category before extinction in the wild.

The United Nations Environment Programme confirmed the parliament vote to create the 'Shar Mountain National Park'

and called the decision "historic".

(SOUNDBITE) (English) UNITED NATIONS ENVIRONMENT PROGRAMME (UNEP) COORDINATION SPECIALIST OF THE PROJECT AT VIENNA INTERNATIONAL CENTRE, SONJA GEBERT, SAYING:"So, in essence, you have a mountain that is trans-boundary, that is of crucial and significant importance to European biodiversity, so it is not just national biodiversity, or regional, but European. This is the last place where the wild lynx lives, the Balkan lynx, brown bear, numerous other species."

As well as being the last home of the Balkan Lynx, the range contained the brown bear and numerous other species

Since the park borders others in Albania and Kosovo, the move will create one of Europe's largest trans-boundary protected areas of more than 2,400 square kilometres.

"It's a huge achievement for nature, it's a huge achievement for people. But, last but not least, I want to say that we will continue because we already have upcoming projects approved that will then ensure that this national park is not a so called 'paper-park', or a park that is only designated on paper."

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