SHOULD WE BRING BIG PREDATORS BACK TO BRITAIN?

There are plans afoot to bring back the lynx to Britain. So what should we think? Is it an exciting new conservation policy to bring some charismatic wildlife back into our lives or risky meddling that risks human health, livelihoods and the animals that we have left?

Well we’re advocates of bringing them back so you can guess our views. But we think this position is well supported, while we also think legitimate risks must be carefully considered, here’s why:

Threat to people

The conservation action plan for the Lynx inEurope highlights that ‘Lynx pose no danger to people.’ There are not even anecdotes of man-eating lynx, and all instances where people have been injured by lynx have involved wounded, captured or rabid animals.

Threat to livestock

The risk lynx pose to livestock is considered to be minor across Europe except in Norway. Providing livestock are minded with some animal husbandry and kept outside of lynx forest habitat the threat from lynx is reportedly low. This means a well managed project can be created to keep the risks low, while compensation payments and alternative revenue streams can ensure any individuals that lose out can compensated.

Threat to existing wildlife

The Scottish wildcat is threatened in Britain and could be extinct in just 5 years (http://www.scotsman.com/news/environment/five-years-to-save-scottish-wildcat-from-extinction-1-3761680). There is the worry that lynx could push them over the edge by introducing a larger competitor. However, wildcat and lynx have coexisted for millennia and the major threat to wildcat is through hybridisation with feral domestic cats. This is the problem that needs solving, but while we work towards this any lynx reintroduction should consider this threats.

Benefits of the lynx

The lynx primarily predates deer which are currently very abundant in Britain only limited by the amount of available food. Restoring a predator could help reduce negative impacts deer have to forestry and through traffic collisions. Lynx are also a charismatic large mammal that could be a major draw for tourists seeking a more thrilling wildlife experience in Britain.