Group photo in front of the info center of Mavrovo National Park © Hamlet Ahmedi

Raising public awareness for biodiversity is one of the main pillars in the work of conservationists. Year-round, many days are dedicated to commemorate and shed some light on various endangered species and the number of these days keeps growing. Since 2018, International Lynx Day is celebrated every year on 11th of June to spotlight Europe’s biggest cat and its importance for a complete and healthy ecosystem.

Working on the public’s appreciation of this critically endangered carnivore in our forests is essential for its survival and has been a high priority of the Balkan Lynx Recovery Programme. This year, MES and Mavrovo NP have joined forces and brought the topic to the younger generation of locals, organizing an educational event in the park’s infocentre at the heart of Mavrovo. The event was also open for MES’ members, especially encouraging those who have little ones to come and join.

Around one hundred children from the region were accompanied by their teachers, and had the chance to learn about the lynx through a short and interesting presentation that highlights the pivotal features and roles this cat plays, as well as the danger it faces. Through some questions and discussion, they learned why it is important to learn to coexist with them. To jazz it up after the presentation, they had a glimpse of what it feels like to be a lynx in their natural habitat, roaming on a forest trail where a camera trap had been installed, while wearing a lynx-inspired mask on their faces. To their huge excitement, they also had the chance to see how a real GPS collar works with a playful hide-and-seek demonstration where one had to hide wearing it and the others used a radio-antenna to find them.

Testing of the camera traps © Ekrem Veapi

Activities like these are really important if we want to bring our work closer to the local community. Getting the people more familiar with the monitoring methods and the conservation activities will undoubtedly yield a higher acceptance of them. Involving the younger generations is key if we want to spark their admiration and interest for keeping the Balkan lynx around in the future

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