Ex Situ Breeding Programme

Lynx have been bred in zoological institutions for decades resulting in a self-sustaining and genetically diverse zoo (ex situ) population across Europe. Zoo lynx raised under special conditions can be successfully released in reintroduction and reinforcement projects.

© Tierpark Bern 

The European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) manages the ex situ breeding programme (EEP) for the Carpathian lynx. The EAZA and the «Deutscher Wildgehege Verband» (DWV) cooperate within the Linking Lynx Sourcing Working Group to provide reintroduction and reinforcement projects with suitable zoo-born lynx. Only lynx that have been genetically confirmed to be pure Carpathian lynx will be used for reintroductions.

The Sourcing Working Group brings together lynx experts for all three sources for reintroductions: ex situ-bred lynx, orphans and wild-caught lynx. The following practical aspects of sourcing zoo-born lynx for releases are addressed by this working group:

1. Breeding Enclosures

Zoological institutions breeding lynx for reintroductions must have enclosures that are large, richly and naturally structured with limited exposure to humans (both keepers and members of the public). Only enclosures that meet all the predefined requirements are suitable for breeding lynx for release.

© Tierpark Bern

2. Handling of Lynx

Besides the enclosure, husbandry and handling also have an impact on lynx behaviour. To prevent the lynx from getting habituated or imprinted on humans, all persons working with the animals must follow detailed protocols around the lynx that are being bred for release projects. Therefore, husbandry guidelines have been developed and discussed that outline the rules for appropriate feeding and minimal animal contact. All zoos and wildlife parks that want to contribute lynx to the projects will be required to perform behavioural observational tests to determine whether the offspring are suitable for reintroduction into the wild.

3. Coordination Enclosures

From the breeding enclosures within the zoological institutions the offspring intended for release will be moved into large natural enclosures without public access (so-called coordination enclosures when they are between 8–11 months of age. Lynx will stay in the coordination enclosures for a period of 3–5 months, possibly longer depending on the final release strategy, to allow them to «rewild». Each coordination enclosure will consist of multiple compartments, usually allowing one compartment to remain vacant for potential orphans or old surplus animals from the EEP. Before release, lynx are subjected to another behavioural assessment and a health check.

© Katrin Vogel

4. Lynx Distribution Platform 

Under guidance of the EEP (EAZA ex situ programme) coordinator and the coordinator for the lynx in the DWV, lynx are being bred in zoological institutions across Europe. To coordinate the demand for lynx from reintroduction and reinforcement projects with the supply of lynx from the ex situ breeding programme and the wild sources, a «lynx distribution platform» has been created. Which lynx are suitable for release and which in situ project they are assigned to is discussed and defined within the lynx distribution platform subgroup.

© Tierpark Bern