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European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency

LIFE Luchs Pfälzerwald

Reintroduction of lynxes (Lynx lynx carpathicus) in the Palatinate Forest Biosphere Reserve

LIFE Luchs Pfälzerwald
LIFE13 NAT/DE/000755/SNU/Cornelia Arens. All rights reserved. Licensed to the European Union under conditions.

The LIFE Luchs Pfälzerwald project successfully re-established a lynx (Lynx lynx carpathicus) population in the Palatinate Forest in southwestern Germany. This was achieved through a reintroduction programme involving the release of 20 lynx (12 coming from Switzerland and 8 from Slovakia).

By the end of the project, at least 18 cubs were born. A reproducing lynx population has been established in the Palatinate Forest, which has already started to spread out into neighbouring areas. Migration to the Central Vosges was documented, and the birth of offspring was proven in the Northern Vosges in 2021. This newly-established population is expected to serve as a ‘stepping stone’, interlinking other lynx populations. Through these species conservation actions, the project implements the EU Habitats Directive.

Close cooperation was established between German and French stakeholders (especially hunters, shepherds and other livestock owners) through national and trans-boundary “lynx parliament meetings”. There was an increased acceptance of lynx among livestock owners, hunters and the public in the regions of Palatinate Forest, Alsace and Lorraine, as a result of a high level of stakeholder involvement, consultancy and assistance for livestock owners, and awareness-raising information campaigns.

The project team conducted scientific monitoring and evaluated the reintroduction actions via GPS tracking and VHF telemetry, photo trapping, genetic analysis and re-capture. They constructed a compound for injured lynx, and acquired additional funding to realise a second section for orphaned young lynx at Maßweiler in cooperation with Tierart e.V.

With agreement among stakeholders, the project contributed to the development of a management plan for the lynx in the Palatinate Forest. The project team completed and disseminated new “connectivity guidelines” in order to increase the permeability of traffic infrastructure at the level of land-use planning in the Palatinate Forest, as well as over a larger range, for example, in other low range mountains in Rhineland-Palatinate.

An educational programme called “Oeuil de lynx” reached 2 782 pupils at schools in France and Germany, accompanied by a brochure with educational materials (including a DVD) and other information materials. The project established a network of volunteers to help livestock breeders protect their animals, for example, by erecting fences. The beneficiaries also organised three international conferences, networking activities with experts on lynx and large carnivores, and represented the project in national and international committees.

The project team developed a “lynx trail”, of around 6 km with information boards, for hikers, and six geocaching routes at attractive spots, which by increasing visitor numbers can benefit the local economy.

The LIFE Luchs Pfälzerwald project won the 2023 LIFE Award in the Nature category