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LJUBLJANA (Reuters) - Slovenia plans to save its dwindling lynx population by importing the wild cats from near neighbours Slovakia and Romania.
Lynxes became extinct in Slovenia about 100 years ago but were successfully repopulated in 1974 when six were imported from Slovakia. Their numbers were on the rise until 2000 when they began to fall due to genetic flaws caused by inbreeding.
There are now only 10 to 20 left in Slovenia's forests, down from between 50 and 70 about 20 years ago.
An EU-funded project aims to revive the population by importing at least 10 lynxes from Slovakia and Romania between 2019 and 2024, project coordinator Rok Cerne told Reuters.
It will also see the transfer of four lynxes from Romania and Slovakia to Croatia, where the lynx population is also low at about 40.
About 60 percent of the 7 million euro (£6.2 million) project will come from EU funds.
Around 60 percent of Slovenia is covered by forests, which are also home to relatively stable populations of bears and wolves.
Reporting By Marja Novak; Editing by Susan Fenton