Turkish Journal of
Zoology Turk J Zool
(2015) 39: 541-543
Conservation of a new breeding population of Caucasian lynx
(Lynx lynx dinniki) in eastern Turkey
Mark W. CHYNOWETH1,*, Emrah ÇOBAN2, Çağan H. ŞEKERCIOĞLU1,2,3
1Department of Biology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, USA
2KuzeyDoğa Society, Kars, Turkey
3College of Sciences, Koç University, Rumelifeneri, Sarıyer, İstanbul, Turkey
* Correspondence: firstname.lastname@example.org
e Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) is a widely distributed
species in Asia and Europe, relying on adequate forest
cover and a sucient prey base for its survival (Aulagnier
et al., 2009). Historically, lynx inhabited a much larger
region including many areas throughout western Europe;
however, habitat loss and human activity has fragmented
the population into isolated remnants in many parts of
its range and some isolated European subpopulations are
critically endangered or endangered (Breitenmoser et al.,
2008). While lynx have been successfully reintroduced to
several areas of central and western Europe (Kaczensky
et al., 2013), habitat availability and human–carnivore
conict continue to be critical barriers to their success in
many areas. As a result, habitat constraints and limited
connectivity between Eurasian lynx populations have
resulted in high levels of genetic dierentiation in parts
of their western range (Ratkiewicz et al., 2012). In some
cases, isolated populations have been recognized as
subspecies of lynx, leading to the designation of discrete,
demographically independent populations. e lynx in
eastern Turkey are considered a subspecies of Eurasian lynx
known as the Caucasian lynx, Lynx lynx dinniki (von Arx
et al., 2004; Albayrak, 2012), are considered endangered
(Price, 2000), and are in need of a conservation-breeding
program (von Arx et al., 2004).
For a temperate region, Turkey has an impressive
assemblage of large mammalian carnivores, including lynx,
caracal (Caracal caracal schmitzi), leopard (Panthera pardus
tulliana), Eurasian brown bear (Ursus arctos arctos), gray
wolf (Canis lupus lupus), and striped hyena (Hyaena hyaena),
with Persian lion (Felis leo persica), tiger (Panthera tigris
virgata), and Asiatic cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus venaticus)
having gone extinct in the past two centuries (Şekercioğlu
et al., 2011a). However, Turkey’s biodiversity is in crisis
(Şekercioğlu et al., 2011a, 2011b), Turkey’s carnivores are
understudied, and, illustratively, little is known about the
distribution and ecology of lynx in eastern Turkey. ese
medium-sized cats are elusive animals that are rarely seen
in the wild. Recent camera trapping projects and surveys
have generated records of lynx in some provinces (Ambarlı
et al., 2010; Albayrak, 2012) and neighboring countries
in which they had not previously been sighted/recorded
(Moqanaki et al., 2010 and references therein). While the
distribution and status of lynx in Turkey are data-decient,
we think that the fragmentation of forest, depletion of
prey base, poaching, and vehicle collisions represent
signicant threats to this understudied subspecies. Due to
its geographic isolation, the population of L. l. dinniki in
eastern Turkey could potentially represent an evolutionarily
signicant unit in need of detailed research (Moritz, 1994).
Current data on the distribution and ecology of the Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) in Turkey are limited. Furthermore, lynx in the
Caucasus region are likely to represent a subspecies of the Eurasian lynx, the Caucasian lynx (L. l. dinniki). roughout its range, lynx
increasingly face threats due to human activity, with habitat loss and prey depletion being of particular concern in eastern Turkey. As part
of our camera trapping eorts to monitor large carnivores in the Sarıkamış-Allahuekber National Park and surrounding forests in Kars and
Erzurum provinces, eastern Turkey, we have documented a breeding population of Caucasian lynx outside the species’ published range. In
addition to the threats above, vehicle strikes, poaching, and guardian dogs also threaten this small population. ere is an urgent need for
ecological research, awareness raising, and community-based conservation eorts focused on large carnivores in the region.
Key words: Anatolia, camera trapping, carnivore, cats, Caucasus biodiversity hotspot, human–wildlife conict, threatened species
Received: 09.05.2014 Accepted: 09.09.2014 Published Online: 04.05.2015 Printed: 29.05.2015
CHYNOWETH et al. / Turk J Zool
Since 2006, our camera trapping study has been
operational in the Sarıkamış-Allahuekber Mountains
National Park and surrounding forests in eastern Turkey’s
Kars Province. Forest cover on this high elevation plateau
is dominated by Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris var. hamata),
but it is extremely fragmented due to human agricultural
activity. Legal logging occurs on about 85% of the ~328
km2 forest and illegal timber poaching is widespread
(Şekercioğlu, 2012). Most notably, our study site is located
more than 100 km from the nearest lynx locality in the
IUCN Red List distribution map (Breitenmoser et al.,
2008; Figure 1). Our camera trap survey has documented
15 mammal species, including the Caucasian lynx. Regular
photographs of lynx from 9 months of the year provide
concrete evidence to expand the known distribution
of lynx in Turkey. Several of our photos document lynx
with cubs, the rst photographic evidence of a breeding
population of lynx in the area (Figure 2a). In our most
recent survey with 13 camera traps over approximately 3
months (1351 trap-nights), we had 8 instances of 5 distinct
individuals recognized by unique pelage.
Our discovery suggests that the Sarıkamış-Allahuekber
National Park and the surrounding forest is a refuge for
predators in a highly fragmented landscape dominated
by human activity. erefore, protecting these forests and
connecting them to the bigger forests in the north with
Turkey’s rst wildlife corridor (Şekercioğlu, 2012) are of
vital importance to the conservation of large carnivore
populations, including the Caucasian lynx and other feline
species. In 2010, our camera trap survey documented
Figure 1. IUCN distribution of Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) in Turkey shaded in black with the Sarıkamış-
Allahuekber Mountains National Park represented with a white star (Breitenmoser et al., 2008).
KuzeyDoğa’s work focuses on the national park and surrounding areas, where we have documented a
breeding population of lynx.
Figure 2. (A) Camera trap photo from the KuzeyDoğa Society’s ongoing camera trap project in eastern
Turkey, focusing on the Sarıkamış-Allahuekber Mountains National park and the surrounding forest.
is is the rst photographic evidence of a breeding lynx population in the area. (B) A lynx killed by a
vehicle collision in fall 2013.
CHYNOWETH et al. / Turk J Zool
wild cats (Felis sylvestris sylvestris) for the rst time in the
region. Nearby, the Aras River watershed harbors jungle
cats (Felis chaus chaus). Leopards have also recently been
recorded in all the countries neighboring northeastern
Turkey (i.e. Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan (Nakhchivan),
and Iran (Khorozyan and Abramov, 2007; Ghoddousi et
al., 2010)) and may survive in the rugged Arpaçay Canyon
and Aras River military zones, which form the Turkey–
Armenia border and are o limits to the public.
Like most large carnivores, lynx require large areas
and are particularly susceptible to threats directly related
to human activity (Ripple et al., 2014). Illegal skin trade
has been identied by the IUCN as the biggest threat
to the Eurasian lynx, followed by habitat loss and prey
depletion (Breitenmoser et al., 2008). In eastern Turkey, all
three of these threats exist. However, habitat loss and prey
depletion may play a proportionately larger role in limiting
lynx populations. Agricultural activities, mainly livestock
grazing, are decreasing forest cover, which is necessary
for lynx and their prey to survive. In many areas that lynx
inhabit, ungulates are considered a primary food source.
However, evidence of roe deer from camera trap surveys
and scat surveys in the region is extremely rare. Out of
3827 trap nights at 25 camera trap stations in the Sarıkamış
forest over 8 years, we documented a maximum of 5 roe
deer in only 41 photos. Lynx are also killed regularly in
eastern Turkey by vehicle collisions, poaching, and sheep
dogs (Figure 2b). A collaboration between the University of
Utah and the KuzeyDoğa Society, our wildlife conservation
ecology project is being carried out with the hope of
contributing to the growing conservation movement
in Turkey and improving carnivore conservation in the
region. We strongly recommend detailed research on the
behavior, distribution, genetics, ecology, and population
biology of the Caucasian lynx in eastern Turkey to better
understand the geographic range, population trends, and
threats to this distinct population of lynx.
We thank the General Directorate of Nature Conservation
and National Parks and Forestry General Directorate
of Turkey’s Ministry of Forestry and Water Aairs for
permitting our research (Permit: Doğu Anadolu Bölgesinde
Yaban Hayatının Korunması). We thank the Christensen
Fund, National Geographic Society, UNDP Small Grants
Programme, the University of Utah, and the Whitley Fund
for their support. We are grateful to the KuzeyDoğa sta
and volunteers for their tireless eorts through the years
and to the people of Kars for their hospitality.
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