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So, recently plans were laid out by the Lynx Trust UK to allow for a handful of Eurasian Lynx (Lynx lynx) to be let free into the Scottish wilderness about 30 miles away from Glasgow. It would be fair to say that the proposal has received a mixed reception. On the one hand, it could help to balance the delicate ecosystem in the area. On the other hand, it could be problematic for farmers who keep livestock such as sheep and chicken.
In this article, we’re going deep to explore both sides of the argument for the Lynx reintroduction in order to present you with our 100% totally unbiased conclusion.
Currently, the Scottish ecosystem is out of balance. For instance, numbers of the Western Capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) have reduced as a result of competition with deer and their eggs being eaten by Foxes and Pine Martens. The reintroduction of Lynxes could lead to these threats being managed and the subsequent Capercaillie numbers seeing a steady rise.
The Eurasian Lynx was once native to the UK, it was however hunted to extinction for its fur between 500-700 AD. A compelling argument that is often brought up involves bringing the species back home. After all, if it was man who caused the local extinction of the species, should it not also be the responsibility of man to try and remedy the situation by bringing them back?
You’d be surprised just how much the UK wildlife is worth to the British economy. Scotland’s wildlife alone is worth £127m with over 1.12 million visitors every year. It’s safe to assume that by having a cute and cuddly carnivore roaming free in the country, odds are, it will only attract more visitors.
When trying to bring about a proposal like this, it is important to persuade the government. How better to do this than with the support of the public?
During 2015, a nationwide survey was carried out regarding the public’s opinion on the matter. The survey gathered 9621 responses. Of these, 79.8% strongly agreed that with a controlled and monitored scientific trial they should be introduced.
Okay, this isn’t a very scientific approach. But don’t worry, we’re not using this as a metric to make our final judgements. But, it is hard to ignore how cool they are.
In the UK, we are somewhat lucky (depending on your outlook) that there are very few animals that pose a threat to our safety. Likewise, our pets and our livestock such as sheep, pigs and cows also have little in the way of natural threats.
To have Lynxes roam free however, poses a threat to both our pets and our livestock. They are quite large and are more than capable of taking down wild deer. Because of this, there is a reasonable amount of concern from farmers that the Lynx will be damaging to their livelihoods.
Data gathered between 1992-1995 showed that the number of sheep killed by Lynx in Norway was 18,924. That’s an average of just over 6300 each year. The study also estimated that every Lynx would have killed more than 10 sheep per year. When you look at the numbers and compare it to the UK’s annual consumption of mutton and lamb, which was just under 327 tonnes in 2015. It’s easy to understand the concerns faced with the reintroduction of the Lynx. It’s estimated that after it’s released into the two sites in Scotland, cattle farmers will need to be compensated £18,936 every year.
Planning and actually releasing the animals into the wild is going to be the cheap part of the plan. However, costs will continually increase to hundreds of thousands if not millions of pounds because of the needs for specialist monitoring year-on-year.
The field of reintroduction biology is a fairly new discipline and current knowledge in the area is still limited.
As a result, the scientists involved with the project are struggling to fully quantify and understand what the effects of a Lynx reintroduction will or will not be. Rather than balancing the ecosystem, they may, in fact, predate heavily on the wrong species and cause a further imbalance in local populations.
Adding to the uncertainty, previous work that has so far implemented reintroduction programmes have seen mixed results.
Sure, seeing the Lynx on British soil would no doubt be a great thing to see. But… At the end of the day, the Eurasian Lynx is not threatened, never mind endangered. Usually, the reason for reintroductions is because of a need to conserve a species and prevent its risk of extinction.
Healthy populations can be found throughout Europe and Asia, so they are not uncommon. Given the effort and resources that are going to be required, would it not make more sense to use it for more pressing matters?
It’s clear that the conservationists spearheading this project have their work cut out for them. It’s going to be a challenge to fully understand all the possible implications that may arise from a Lynx reintroduction.
Assuming that a solid plan supported by adequate scientific research is laid out. Perhaps the Lynx should see its long-term absence come to an end. After all, it could eventually become a striking mascot for UK wildlife. It would seem that our opinion reflects that of the majority of people who took part in the survey.
At the end of the day, this proposal is only for a trial Lynx reintroduction. So could the consequences really be that disastrous? Perhaps we’re just naive, or perhaps our views are fully justified. Either way, bear in mind that if this plan does come to fruition and the consequences are somewhat dire, please don’t blame us.
We hope you enjoyed this article and that it’s been able to provide you with some invaluable information. If it did, let us know on Twitter @Finding_Nature and tell us what topic we should cover next.
Check out our previous article that talks about getting up close and personal with the second biggest fish in the sea!