By Jack Williams
This is the adorable, never-before-seen footage of what is believed to be EUROPE’S RAREST CAT.
The young Balkan lynx was the first newborn of the species to be spotted in the wild in about 10 years, with less than 50 of the critically endangered animals currently in existence.
The close-up footage shows the young Balkan lynx, with its wide blue eyes, camouflaged among some fallen amber leaves.
The video was taken by Gjorgi Ivanov of the Balkan Lynx Recovery Program, who, along with his partner Panajot Chorovski, discovered the lynx between Macedonian mountains of Bistra and Stogovo in late May.
Despite posting a selection of images on social media, Gjorgi, 37, has only now released his footage from Mavrovo National Park in the hope of raising awareness for what is the largest cat in the Balkan region.
Gjorgi said: “After 10 years of intensive work this was a long expected news.
“For other colleagues and supporters, what can I say?
“Who doesn’t like small fluffy kitten?
“Plus, it was spotted and wild!
“One of the largest predators in Europe looked so hopeless and fragile.”
Despite the young cat appearing to be alone and fragile in its den, Gjorgi offered assurances that its mother, Maya, was not far away.
In February, researchers from EuroNatur, which has been working to protect the species for a decade, and the Macedonian Ecological Society attached a GPS tracker to Maya, allowing them to later discover the cub while its mother was nearby.
Threats, however, still exist for the young Balkan lynx, with only 25 percent of kittens eventually reaching adulthood in the wild.
The Balkan Lynx Recovery Programme – a trans-boundary, ongoing initiative that started in 2006 – looks to protect the species.
It is a partnership between Macedonia, Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro, and also calls on expertise from Germany and Switzerland.
Dime Melovski, of the Macedonian Ecological Society, said there are three pillars of protection envisaged in the project: monitoring and research of the Balkan lynx and its prey; the establishment of new protected areas relevant for the lynx; and a human-dimension aspect – involving relevant people in the Balkan lynx research monitoring, but also education of pupils.”
In their fight for survival, wild Balkan lynxes face the likes of habitat losses, disease, road accidents and illegal hunting.
Gjorgi, from Skopje, Macedonia, said: “The Balkan lynx is a symbol of the wilderness.
“It contributes to the stable and healthy ecosystems and environment.
“If we lose the Balkan lynx, and other large carnivores like wolves and bears, we will have lost that wild side deep in us.
“It looks like people are at war with these large predators, and, in wars, there are no winners, only losers.”