Conservationists are now hoping to reintroduce lynx into the wild in 2016 – but some farmers say they’re worried about livestock.
Wild cats just might be reintroduced into the forests of Britain by the end of 2016 – with lynx roaming free for the first time in 1,300 years.
Lynx UK Trust is currently seeking permission to run a five-year trial after identifying suitable forests in Northumberland, Norfolk, Cumbria, Aberdeenshire and Argyll & Bute.
Two of the sites would become the new homes of three male and three female lynx, and experts believe the project might just bring considerable benefits for the UK’s economy and ecology.
Dr Paul O’Donoghue, who is involved in the trial, believes lynx could potentially save some communities by generating tens of millions of pounds in revenue through eco-tourism.
He explained: “They promote forest regeneration. In the UK, forests are dying. There’s no regeneration of younger trees coming through because of the massive overpopulation of deer.”
“Lynx will help to both control and move deer around, which will promote forest regeneration.”
Currently, lynx are wild in certain parts of Europe such as Germany, but remain in captivity in the UK.
The Lynx Trust says the animals pose absolutely no danger to humans – but to counter safety concerns, it says all animals will be fitted with a GPS collar.
However, the lynx effect isn’t sitting well with everyone. Farmers argue that having lynx roaming free presents a risk to livestock.
Andrew Bauer, of the National Farmers’ Union in Scotland, told Sky News: “Our main concern is losses of sheep and lamb.”
“In Norway, where they have more trees, they lose tens of thousands of sheep and lamb every year to lynx and wolves.”
“We may not have the same level of forest cover in the UK at the moment but, certainly in Scotland, we’re planting a lot more trees and we’re going to see a lot more sheep and lamb in amongst forestry.”
A nationwide consultation ended last month, and the Lynx Trust hopes it can gain a licence by the end of 2016.
Natural England and Scottish Natural Heritage are the bodies which will decide whether or not the trial should go ahead.
Similar projects have been successfully conducted in the past. In 2009, when beavers were re-introduced into Argyll and Tayside.