The Lynx UK Trust has announced a public consultation as a final stage in its preparations to formally request reintroduction licences for the lynx to be brought back to England and Scotland.
The lynx was wiped out by hunting and habitat loss around 500AD, but is now seen as a valuable missing link in the UK’s ecology, providing a natural control for species such as deer.
Dr Paul O’Donoghue, Chief Scientific Advisor for Lynx UK Trust says, “People have talked about the reintroduction of lynx for the past 20 years but no tangible progress has been made.
“Over the last year we’ve brought together an incredibly experienced team of international experts which puts us in a unique position to take this exciting project forward.”
Three sites have been chosen as ideal trial-release locations, two in England and one in Scotland, after close consultations with the landowners.
Tony Marmont, owner of Grumack Forest, one of the potential release sites, comments, “Lynx will have an extremely beneficial effect on our forest ecosystems, both directly and as ambassadors for wider conservation projects. I also believe we should try to reintroduce an animal that humans made extinct here.”
Consultation has begun and will seek to gauge public opinion whilst highlighting any specific concerns which will then be researched and addressed during the trial.
If the licence applications are successful, the trial will see the first lynx released onto privately owned land to be monitored 24 hours a day to see how they adapt and settle into the environment.
This data will then be used to decide whether a UK wide reintroduction should be progressed.
Lynx have been successfully reintroduced across numerous sites in Europe bringing a range of benefits such as improved conservation of forestry, improved balance of biodiversity, reductions in pest species and numerous economic opportunities for remote rural communities which have carefully developed eco-tourism around the presence of the cats.
“We’re confident that we can achieve exactly the same thing here in the UK,” says O’Donoghue. “Forests around these islands struggle against an over-abundance of deer, which is a classic problem to emerge when you lack apex predators.
“Wildcats and foxes can’t possibly control deer numbers, but lynx really can, and the economic possibilities for rural communities are incredible.”
Responding to questions from farmers and other owners of livestock, such as sheep, O’Donoghue states: “As a very dedicated forest animal, lynx will rarely come across agricultural animals; predation on them has been rare in Europe. We will be putting a full subsidy programme in place to reassure farmers anywhere near the reintroduction sites.”
In the coming months the University of Cumbria will carry out the consultation on behalf of Lynx UK Trust, speaking to the general public, landowners and other stakeholders to gauge levels of support for, or opposition to, the project.
Dr Ian Convery, who will lead the consultation with Dr Billy Sinclair, says, “We are very excited about our involvement in this lynx reintroduction project.
“There has been a great deal of interest and discussion in the UK concerning reintroductions over recent years, and it is hugely inspiring to see words translating into action.
“There is compelling evidence that carnivore reintroductions benefit both the ecosystem and the economy; we expect the proposed lynx reintroduction in the UK will do likewise.”
The initial public survey is available to all residents of the UK to fill out online via www.lynxuk.org