Previous projects

What has happened so far

With the reintroduction of the lynx in the Harz National Park from the year 2000 onwards, interest in the species, which had been locally extinct for about 150 years, was also awakened again in Thuringia. It was a question whether the lynx would make its way to the Thuringian Southern Harz and from there to other suitable habitats, especially the Thuringian Forest. As the results of initial projects showed, permanent colonization of the Thuringian Forest by the lynx would not succeed without active support measures.

Phototrap monitoring since 2019

Since spring 2019, BUND Thüringen has been researching the lynx’s dispersal potential in Thuringia. First of all, the occurrence and dispersal of the lynx in a model region in the north-west of Thuringia, near the Harz Mountains, was investigated with the help of systematic photo trap monitoring. In the course of this study, over 200 independent photos of lynx were taken over the past two years, covering a total of 16 different individuals. Six of the lynx detected in north-western Thuringia could be classified as resident, i.e. they had established permanent territories there.

Development of a dispersion model 2020/2021

As it was evident despite this success that lynx dispersal in Thuringia and Central Germany has been far too slow so far, BUND Thüringen 2020 commissioned a comprehensive dispersal model for lynx in Central Germany, which was completed in spring 2021. The model was created under the supervision of Prof. Marco Heurich (Bavarian Forest National Park and the University of Freiburg) and used empirical data on reproduction, mortality and dispersal behavior of lynx of Central European populations to simulate the dispersal of the lynx in Central Germany over the next 25-50 years. The model forms a fundamental basis of the project applied for, as it showed in all clarity that a connection of the existing populations in the Harz Mountains and the Bavarian Forest could only be achieved by an active reintroduction of lynx in the Thuringian Forest.

Feasibility study for a lynx population support in Thuringia

From this point on, the plan to support the lynx population was consistently pursued. In the summer of 2021, WWF Germany joined as a project partner to lay the foundations for a population support in a joint project funded by the TMUEN (The Future of the Lynx in Thuringia). A representative population survey conducted on behalf of WWF showed that there is broad social acceptance for the reintroduction of lynx in Thuringia. In addition, the establishment of a photo trap network in the central Thuringian Forest was started in order to systematically check whether there are animals with a permanent territory in the Thuringian Forest despite the lack of evidence of resident lynx.

Workshop: The Future of the Lynx in Thuringia 2021

Another milestone was a workshop held in the autumn of 2021, which brought together Germany’s leading lynx experts with representatives of Thuringian associations and organizations (e.g. ThüringenForst, LJV Thüringen, Thuringian Forest Biosphere Reserve, Thuringian Sheep Breeders’ Association) to discuss the future of the lynx in Thuringia. Our plans to support the population were presented to the Thuringian stakeholders for the first time at this workshop. The response was positive throughout. Many of the associations and organizations present expressed their interest in cooperation. There were no openly expressed objections to supporting the lynx population in the Thuringian Forest.

International cooperation for the lynx in Thuringia

other things, the combined use of wild-caught lynx and captive-bred lynx was identified as the most promising strategy: Contact was made with the Romanian NGO ACDB and the Romanian forestry administration Romsilva, as well as with the LinkingLynx working group, an association of European lynx experts and zoo specialists, which deals with the technical requirements for breeding and keeping captive lynx for field projects. In bilateral talks with ThüringenForst, the Thuringian Forest Biosphere Reserve and LJV Thuringia, possibilities for future cooperation were further concretized.

Because it became clear that not only the natural environment conditions were right for a lynx population in the Thuringian Forest, but also that society and important Thuringian stakeholders approved, the project continued into the next round to concretely prepare the introduction of lynx into the Thuringian Forest from spring 2022.

Within the framework of the new project phase, which is funded by the TMUEN under the EU co-financed program “Development of Nature and Landscape (ENL)” under the title “Stepping Stone Thuringian Forest,” among other things, the photo trap monitoring was continued and expanded. A special enclosure was built where lynx born in zoos or wildlife parks can grow up with minimal contact to humans and thus be prepared for a life in the wild.

Other important elements of the project included workshops, presentations and PR work, as well as the creation of this website and various materials that provide information about the project and the lynx as a species.

Finally, at the end of 2023, the actual population support is to begin within the framework of another ENL project.