We are nearing the time when the reintroduction of the Eurasian lynx to the British Isles becomes a reality and I for one am thrilled about it. Eurasian lynx could soon be prowling Britain’s countryside. When it happens it will be the first time in 1,300 years that lynx have lived in Britain. Plans are afoot to re-wild the Kielder Forest with Eurasian lynx.
The Kielder Forest is an ideal place for the rewilding by the lynx because it is the biggest forested area in Britain.
The reintroduction of Eurasian lynx has a moral basis. This is because Brits killed every single one 1,300 years ago when they were as much a part of the British Isles as any other animal is today. They evolved on these islands. Paul O’Donoghue, chief scientific adviser of The Lynx UK Trust, argues that we have a duty to bring them back.
As I read the situation, the general feeling is that interested parties agree with him. Lynx are good for tourism. Those against it will be farmers who fear that Eurasian lynx will prey upon their sheep. However, a compensation scheme would be introduced.
The idea is to introduce up to 10 of these beautiful wild cats into the Kielder Forest which borders England and Scotland for a five year trial period. The Eurasian lynx mainly preys on deer but of course, as mentioned, lambs would also be considered prey.
The Lynx UK Trust is engaged in a consultation process with farmers, tourist operators and other interested parties living around the Kielder Forest.
The area has spectacular wildlife. There are ospreys, otters and red squirrels. It is already a good tourist attraction. The introduction of Eurasian lynx would add to its attractiveness.
The area has a very low human population density, large deer populations and few roads. Lynx would restore the balance in wildlife because presently there are excessive deer numbers resulting in intensive browsing which prevents forest rejuvenation, so said Ian Convery, Professor of Environment and Society of Cumbria University.
The Forestry Commission which owns almost 150,000 acres of woodland around Kielder regularly cull thousands of deer to protect trees and reduce damage to trees. They have given a positive response, albeit cautious, remarking that a full consultation is needed.
All reintroductions such as this one must be approved by Natural England and Scottish Natural Heritage. The key issue to be discussed is the risk of the Eurasian lynx preying on sheep.
On a purely financial basis is more profitable to the economy to re-wild Kielder Forest with lynx for the following reason. Sheep farming dominates too much of our countryside. It costs taxpayers millions of pounds in subsidies. Wildlife tourism is simply more profitable and requires no subsidy.
Terry Gregg, who runs a bed and breakfast in Kielder village said:
“A lot of visitors come for the wildlife. Lynx safaris would be a big extra traction.”
There is a precedent which indicates rewilding by Eurasian lynx will be successful in Great Britain. They have been reintroduced into parts of Europe such as Germany’s Harz Mountains. Fourteen of the cats were introduced in 2000. The population is now up to 100. The area publicises itself as “the kingdom of the Lynx”. There has been no downside.
The Eurasian lynx is quite a big cat which weighs up to 70 pounds. It is the biggest amongst the Lynx family of cats. The other three lynx species are the Canada lynx, Iberian lynx (at one time the rarest wild cat) and the bobcat.