On the Quest of the Balkan Lynx in Montenegro [MEA046]

This will surely be the most thrilling expedition of the year in Montenegro. With an international team of fauna and flora experts, we are going to the National Park of Prokletije and the remote mountains of Hajla. Chances to spot animals such as Balkans wolves and jackals, bears, roe deer, chamois, badgers and hopefully the elusive Balkan lynx. You are welcome to join us on this unique scientific expedition. If you like adventures, wildlife, hiking and nature, this expedition is for you!

 

EXPEDITION DESCRIPTION:

 

The expedition is organized in partnership with OSI, an NGO offering high quality scientific holidays since 1992.

Those 10 days will be an opportunity to survey the Montenegrin mountains in search of clues about wildlife, learn to implement proper scientific monitoring and live as close as possible to the natural environment. It is also an opportunity to do lots of hiking in breathtaking mountains, discover the Montenegrin culture, the fabulous hospitality of its population and its gastronomy.

Wild animals in Montenegro are not used to humans and will try to avoid us. Our chances to spot them depends on going to the right spots (that our experts will help us identify), our ability to be discreet and patient, and also some luck. The Balkan lynx will be the toughest one to find, but that is what makes this expedition exciting.

On the way, we will also find many berries (blueberries, bear berries, raspberries, blackberries, …) enough to make ourselves a pie for dinner! There are also lots of edible mushrooms around that our local guide will help us identify, perfect for an evening pasta dish. :-)

 

THE RESEARCH:

The Balkans Lynx is a sub-species of the European Lynx. It is considered critically endangered‘ on the IUCN Red List. Balkan lynx went missing in the 1990s, then some researches traced him again in the early 2000. Today about fifty individuals are inhabiting the territory of the Dinaric Alps. The Prokletije National Park created in 2009 aims primarily to its ecosystem protection, but today it has little technical and human means to carry out inventories of flora and fauna, and this is the reason why Montenegro Eco Adventures and Objectif International Science decided to unite their knowledge and competencies to develop this scientific research.


The team will have the task of installing photos traps to the best locations, to seek maximum animal presences indices (droppings, hairs, fingerprints) to achieve the most prolific database as possible. We believe setting camera traps is the less disruptive manner to monitor wildlife without interfering with animals habits or environment. 

 

The concepts you will learned on this expedition are: scientific animal tracking protocol, transect, photos traps, feces, footprints, tracks, orientation, map reading, route, geography, geology, history. The pieces of equipment used during the expedition are: photos traps, GPS, samples, print strips, computer, binoculars, radio (walkie-talkie), hiking maps, etc …

 

All the data that will be collected during the expedition will be thoroughly documented in a database that is shared with the National Parks of Prokletije and the Ministry of  Sustainable Development. A partnership has been created with the Prokletije National Park to share knowledge and data as well as collaborations with several animal protection NGO’s and foundations. It is our objective to contribute to more wildlife monitoring in Montenegro in order to protect it.

 

 SELECTION PROCESS:

There are only 9 places available for participants for this participatory scientific expedition. To be selected, you must have an interest to protect the nature, have a a very good physical condition (4 to 6 hours hiking per day – 600+ elevation difference), feel comfortable in a wild environment and simple mountain accommodations.

 

PROGRAM:

Day 1

• Arrival in Podgorica.
• Dinner in town with the expedition team.

• Night in a mid-range hotel.

 

Day 2

• Visit of the market in Podgorica, purchase of dried fruits and nuts for the expedition.
• Departure to the National Park of Prokletije.
• Small discovery walk of the surroundings.
• Dinner and night in a lovely katun* with a breathtaking view.
• Summer cottage in the mountains used by shepherds in the Balkans.

Day 3 to 5

• After breakfast, 4 to 6 hours of hiking and identifying areas where wildlife can be found or potentially spotted, placing and retrieving photos from camera traps and searching for wildlife clues.
• Free time at the end of the afternoon.
• Dinner and night in the katun.
• Evenings will be used for scientific discussions, astronomy (in function of the weather), or leisure time (music, board games, etc).

Day 6

• Early start, direction Rozaje in Haila mountains (1h30 by road).
• Brief visit of Rozaje.
• Drive to mountain katun (1h30 of mountain road).
• Small hike in the afternoon. Diner in a cosy katun with fireplace.

Day 7 to Day 8

 

 

• After breakfast, 4 to 6 hours of hiking and identifying areas where wildlife can be found or potentially spotted, placing and retrieving photos from camera traps and searching for wildlife clues.
• Dinners and nights in the katun.

• Evenings will be used for scientific discussions, astronomy (in function of the weather), or leisure time (music, board games, etc).

Day 9

 

• After an early breakfast, 4 hours of hiking.
• Driving back to Rozaje in the afternoon and then to Podgorica.

• Dinner and night in Podgorica in a mid-range hotel.

Day 10

• Last coupe of hours in the capital city.

• Going back to the airport.

 

INCLUDED:

 

  • All accommodations as described
  • All breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks
  • All transfers during the expedition by car, bus, taxi, 4 wheel drive (including transfers from and to Podgorica airport)
  • Certified mountain guide knowledgeable of Haila Mountains and Prokletije National Park (speaking English and Montenegrin)
  • Certified mountain and fauna specialist (speaking English and French)
  • All scientific material required for the study (camera traps, GPS devices, sampling etc)
  • Parc Entrance fees
  • Accident insurance (mandatory in Montenegro)

 

NOT INCLUDED:

 

  • International flights to and from Podgorica
  • Airport taxes
  • Soft and alcoholic drinks
  • Personal expenses (souvenirs, laundry, etc…)
  • Tips

OVERVIEW:

Duration: 10 days

Dates:

  • 7th to 16th September 2017
  • 31st May to 9th June 2018
  • 6th to 15th September 2018

Group size: 6 min – 9 max

Comfort: Shepherds houses (katuns), wooden bungalows, mid-range hotels

Languages: Montenegrin, English and French

 

FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTION:

To cover the expenses of the expedition, the fee is set to 1 355 € p.p.

Discount for booking minimum 4 months before expedition starts: 1 299 € p.p.

Small group supplement: if only 5 participants have subscribed 2 months before departure, each participant can pay a supplement of 200 euros to maintain expedition departure.

Tax deduction for French residents: OSI est une ONG à but non lucratif et ce séjour (en tant que congé solidaire) peut vous permette de bénéficier d’un retour d’impôts.

 

PAYMENT:

Before booking, please apply by sending an email to info@montenegro-eco.com with your motivations, fitness level and contact details.

Payment via OSI website – specify Montenegro Eco Adventures in the comment field.

 

 

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Balkan Lynx

Camera Trap Photo from The Balkan Lynx Recovery Programme

 

 

MORE ABOUT THE BALKAN LYNX:

 

The Balkan lynx (Lynx lynx balcanicus) is a subspecies of the Boreal lynx in the Lynx genus (or Eurasian Lynx). It is found in eastern Albania and western Macedonia, with smaller populations in Kosovo and Montenegro. It is believed that in Macedonia there are from 35 to 40 remaining Balkan lynx, mostly found in Mavrovo National Park. Studies on the population of the Balkan Lynx in Montenegro have started only recently. This cat is considered to be the largest cat in the Balkans. It is classified as Critically Endangered in Albania and has been protected de jure since 1969, but despite this illegal poaching and habitat destruction threatens the remaining Balkan lynx populations in both Albania and Macedonia. The Balkan lynx has been on the brink of extinction for nearly a century. The Balkan lynxes’ decrease in number have been thought to be due to illegal poaching and habitat disruption. The Balkan lynx starts mating around January to February, and gives birth in April.

IUCN Red List: The European population with the greatest conservation concern is the Critically Endangered Balkan Lynx subpopulation estimated at only 40-50 individuals (Kaczensky et al. 2013, Melovski 2012)

Cover photo – photo credit: Associations Les Félins
Lynx – photo credit: Balkan Lynx Recovery Programme
Lynx – photo credit: Joachim Flachs
Other photos by: Cyril Leduc, Florian Pinchon, Zulficar Kurtagic & Alexandra Aubertin