One of the most exotic animals you will find in the Czech Republic's pine forests is the lynx - its long ears are like sensitive antennas, its big feet make it a powerful swimmer and its long lean muscles enable silent stalking and speed. Although the lynx usually poses no threat to humans and livestock, this protected animal is a frequent target of illegal hunters. According to some estimates around 500 lynxes have been killed in Czech forests since the 1980s. Vojtech Kotecky of the environmental group Friends of the Earth explains how serious the situation is:
"The Sumava national park zoologists attached radio transmitters to fourteen lynxes in recent years in order to monitor their behaviour and movement. Out of those fourteen animals eight were most probably killed by poachers."
Why is the lynx killed? Why do poachers do it?
"That is not an easy question. I think that the main reason is that to have a lynx trophy is a matter of prestige for hunters - something they can show their friends in the village. Another problem is that hunters see lynxes as competition because lynxes kill rabbits and game so hunters are interested in removing this competition to their hunting activity. "
In order to help preserve the lynx in Czech forests, Friends of the Earth have launched a lynx protection project -groups of volunteers take turns to patrol woodland areas to keep away poachers. This has worked well in the Beskydy Mountains, in the eastern part of the country, and this weekend the first group of volunteers are heading for the south Bohemian Sumava mountain range. Vojtech Kotecky again:
"Groups of volunteers will take turns to travel around the mountains in order to show that there is someone there who guards the area and explicitly looks for poachers. That is one thing, and secondly this activity will bring some interesting data about the movement of these animals in the mountains and will help with research and protection."
For the 80 or so lynxes still living in the Sumava mountain area this effort could make a huge difference.
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