The Balkan lynx is a type of wild cat classified as a critically endangered species. Only around 45 of the species are now believed to roam in the region. Yet illegal poaching, landscape degradation and construction activities are posing grave threats to the region’s largest cat.
The Balkan lynx can be found in North Macedonia, Albania and Kosovo. While hunting or harming any Balkan lynx is strictly forbidden by the law in all three countries, an investigation found that the situation is very different in practice. A team of journalists from Macedonian MOF radio concluded that the animal is in fact very poorly protected and in grave danger of extinction.
Their investigation lasted for several months and resulted in a story titled “Following the Balkan lynx’s footsteps – an investigative story in two parts”. The story paints a grim picture of the Balkan lynx’s situation of constant risk from illegal hunting. The investigative team found stuffed lynx on the walls of restaurants near the animal’s habitat, lynx kept in cages as an attraction, and suspicions of police officials involved in hunting. In addition, the investigation showed that apart from poaching threats, Balkan lynx are also endangered by illegal waste dumping, and construction activities such as roads and hydropower plants in and around natural or national parks.
Recognition of efforts
The journalist team that conducted and published the investigative story was made up of Bojan Shashevski, Daniel Evrosimoski, Emilija Petreska and Jasmina Jakimova. Jasmina explains that their inspiration came from wanting to tell a story on a rarely reported topic, and also to investigate whether the laws regarding the protection of nature and wildlife were being implemented properly. “In our region we have great legislation on paper, but often this legislation is not implemented properly,” she says.
The story was a great success in terms of feedback from readers and also won the EU Award for Investigative Journalism for North Macedonia in 2021. The award was given through the EU-funded project called “Strengthening Quality News and Independent Journalism in the Western Balkans and Turkey,” and the jury described the article as a product of outstanding research.
At the award ceremony, Emilija Petreska from Radio MOF said, “It is disappointing that even after more than a year since we published the story, the institutions have not reacted to the findings…. What kind of future do we have in mind if we continue to destroy eco-systems, to destroy the living environment of the Balkan lynx and the natural heritage we have, and – by that – destroy ourselves?”.
Jasmina explains that being from a small media organisation, her team was surprised when they were told that they won the first prize. “The award was very important to us not because of the money, but because of recognition: it is a great feeling when your efforts are recognised,” she says.
The EU investigative journalism awards have the overall goal of celebrating and promoting the outstanding achievements of investigative journalists from the Western Balkan countries and Turkey, as well as improving the visibility of quality investigative journalism among the public in these countries.
About the project
The goal of the EU-funded project on “Strengthening Quality News and Independent Journalism in the Western Balkans and Turkey” is to enhance trust among citizens in the media and create a safe environment for journalists to produce independent news content, through training, mentoring, technical and financial support, and publishing. The project has run since 2019 in the EU candidate and potential candidate countries of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey.
Photo credits : Radio MOF
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