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By Natalie Bradbeer on 14.3.2024

Lynx to return to Britain?

A draft report by Scottish ecologists may recommend the reintroduction of the Eurasian lynx to areas of British countryside, potentially including Kent.

A previous report by one of the ecologists behind the draft, Dr David Hetherington, indicates that the lynx did not die out in Britain through natural processes, but due to human activity. Under an EU directive, Britain is required to consider the reintroduction of previously native species. As such, we may soon have lynx, wolves, bears and others in our midst – if proven feasible.

Recent research shows that some lynx still lived in Britain until medieval times, and there are currently lynx being kept at Herne Bay’s Wildwood Trust conservation park. Despite common fears, they are purportedly shy creatures and unlikely to attack unless threatened.

The lynx, whose preferred habitat is forests, is hoped to be able to control the population of deer. The deer population in Britain is currently so high that a proportion has to be culled in order to stop areas of woodland being completely devastated. Another key benefit may be the increase in wildlife tourism.

Not all will be in favour of their restoration, however. Professor Douglas Macmillan, Head of Anthropology and Conservation at the University of Kent, points out that they “might kill lambs and game birds – therefore the introduction will be opposed by farmers and owners of sporting estates.”

Similarly, the trial reintroduction of beavers to areas of Scotland was delayed by opposition by the National Farmers Union of Scotland, who feared damage to their land. On the other hand, beavers improve wetland habitats for other animals, as seen at the trial beaver reserve at Ham Fen, near Sandwich.

However, as seen in the past, a species reintroduction cannot be kept completely under control. Wild boar populations in Kent, which grew out of escapees from captivity, have caused havoc for farmers, giving rise to calls for a cull. As with deer, their numbers continue to rise without natural predators, lending credence to the notion of reintroducing the lynx or wolf.

It is questionable how these long-gone, potentially dangerous animals can be sustained in modern Britain. Such attempts need complete control, but unpredictable escapes or unmanageable population growth of species make attempting to restore ‘natural Britain’ difficult. Grace Turner, of the UKC Conservation Society, says she believes “that Britain is now too fragmented with agriculture and widespread road networks to support the larger top-predators such as the wolf or the lynx. These animals would require large home ranges.”

However, in the name of biodiversity and undoing human damage to the ecosystem, the Eurasian lynx has been proposed as a good candidate. Even so, where lynx have been reintroduced to parts of Switzerland, a lack of communication between organisers of the scheme and citizens has led farmers to resort to illegally killing lynx in order to protect their livestock. It is clear that if the report’s recommendations are followed up, public involvement will be crucial to the successful restoration of the lynx to its ancestral home.

Comments

  • I think the reintroduction of lynx and other lost native species is a good thing.
    people should stop winging and wining and allow these native animals to take there rightfull place in our environment.
    landowners and farmers need to realise that in other countries people look at the environment with a bigger picture and understand the benefits of wild places and wild creatures look at the success in America and germany at reintroducing wolves,people in britain need to learn how to share the land with such amazing iconic creatures instead of looking at our empty countryside missing of all key animals.there is a natural balance that no longer exists here and it is our duty to repare what our ancestors destroyed and leave a healthy complete ecosystem for the generations to follow.

    By Paul Finney on 10.9.2023

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