Thursday 5 November 2020

It looks likely that lynx will be re-introduced to England

The Eurasian lynx was exterminated from the UK in the Middle Ages about 1300 years ago. It was over-hunted to extinction. We have a moral duty to right that wrong although farmers do not want to see the lynx reintroduced into England or Scotland, for that matter, because they think this handsome wild cat will attack and eat their sheep. Despite the resistance from farmers, there is talk, again, of wolves and lynx being reintroduced into the UK because the project is being backed by the new head of Natural England, Tony Juniper. 

He became chairman of the organisation last year and is much more of a supporter of rewilding than his predecessor. Between wolves and lynx, he said that it is more likely that the lynx will be reintroduced into England at Thetford Forest which straddles the Norfolk-Suffolk border.

Mr Juniper said that he wanted to build on the success of the reintroduction of beavers in Devon and white-tailed Eagles on the Isle of Wight. In November 2018 Michael Gove the then environment secretary rejected an application for the reintroduction of lynx because at that time Natural England objected to it. But things have changed and Mr Juniper wants to study the feasibility of the project partly because it would help to control deer numbers. One of the prey animals of the Eurasian lynx is the deer although it is at the top end of the scale for size.

I've described this cat as the "Eurasian lynx" because I have to, I believe. I'm being more specific because often people refer to it as the "lynx" without specifying the subspecies. The Eurasian lynx is the largest of the three linked species: Canada lynx, Iberian lynx and Eurasian lynx. The bobcat is also within this family of cats. They are medium-sized cats. They aren't that large.

Another reason why there's more optimism about the project is the success in the Netherlands where wolves have crossed the border from Germany, taking up residence in Holland with minimal impact on people and farmers. The Netherlands is also a highly populated country like the UK and therefore there are bound to be concerns about medium-sized predators roaming around the wild freely but it works.

Another place where either or both wolves and lynx might be reduced is the Kielder Forest in Scotland. It would be a wonderful addition to the UK to have a genuine wild species of a decent size in the countryside. I can see tourism in Thetford Forest to see the lynx. Something like tourists visiting tiger reserves in India.

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