Interview with Alexa, director of Montenegro Eco Adventures on the Balkan Lynx Expedition:
- 1) You mention Balkan wolves and jackals, bears, roe deer, chamois, badgers and Balkan lynx. Which of these are the likeliest to be spotted during days of hiking?
Our expedition and the Prokletije park have placed cameras traps in strategic areas we will explore, and one of our tasks during the expedition is to retrieve the photos taken since the last expedition. It is always an exciting moment! This is how we saw there are Balkan wolves and jackals, bears, roe deer, chamois, badgers in those areas. We haven’t captured yet the Balkan Lynx on camera but this is what we always hope to find. The Prokletije park has done some studies and is convinced that there is one or more roaming Balkan Lynx passing through the areas we will cover, and we want to prove it. We will also spot some fresh evidences of those animals such as footsteps and feces, and participants will learn how to look for them and to identify them during the expedition. Spotting them during our hike is of course possible but requires to be lucky and very discreet, which we will try of course.
- 2) How difficult is it for interested people to be selected? Is it sufficient for applicants to say they have an interest in protecting nature, or is proof (i.e. previous experience) required?
We have 2 criteria which are really important: the level of fitness of the candidate, their genuine interest in nature protection, and we usually assess it through a phone interview. This expedition is quite physical and we really need to make sure participants are fit enough for their own safety and enjoyment as well as the ones of other participants.
- 3) Why is it important to start a database of wildlife? How will this help with conservation efforts in the future?
At the moment there is very little to none data collected in certain areas of Montenegro, mostly due to a lack of resources. The first step to protect wildlife is to know it, that is why collecting as much data as possible on wildlife and flora will greatly help the National Parks of Montenegro in their endeavors. There has been lots of hunting during the last war and this tradition still persists in some areas. It is very important for us to raise awareness among the local population that they have more to win from ecotourism (by protecting their pristine environment) than through short term gains such as hunting. Supporting the National Parks in their efforts to protect wildlife through ecotourism development is one of our mission.
- 4) What is the scenery like in Prokletije and Hajla?
Absolutely stunning! The sceneries are very varied, from numerous mountain peaks, rugged mountain sides rich undergrowth, rivers, shepherds mountain huts. You really feel totally immersed in nature, make a fire in the evening to cook on it, heat the source water for your bath, learn how to forage food (we find amazing mushrooms species in the undergrowth!) and learn so much about what to look for, how to observe and get totally energized and inspired by the creativity of nature!