The trial reintroduction of six Eurasian lynx in the Kielder Forest in Northumberland has become more likely as 100% of the landowners approached so far have given their approval, according to the Lynx UK Trust.
The licence application for the reintroduction, submitted by the Lynx UK Trust, is being considered by Natural England and Environment Secretary Michael Gove.
“I think this speaks volumes for the confidence in the trial reintroduction plan we’ve laid out, and the potential it has for improving the local ecosystem and expanding the local tourist economy,” says Dr Paul O’Donoghue, chief scientific advisor for the Lynx UK Trust.
“This will be an exceptionally rigorous, scientifically led reintroduction trial using cutting edge technology to monitor these cats in stunning detail. Everything is in place to deliver a world class project that will breathe life into Britain’s dying forest ecosystems.”
However in an article by The Times, a number of landowners have disputed the claim that they support the reintroduction.
Supporters of the reintroduction plan says that there would be a range of benefits including potential tourism value of tens of millions of pounds for the local economy, and helping to control and reduce the overpopulation of deer, which in turn would reduce damage to forests and improve habitats for smaller animals.
“Our ecosystem desperately needs reintroductions like this,” says Peter Smith, director of the Wildwood Trust which is involved with the reintroduction plan.
“Apex predators are critical for controlling species like deer which can overpopulate and cause serious damage to natural habitats. Lynx aren’t the complete solution, but they’re a keystone element in the construction of one.”
However there are arguments against the reintroduction, particularly from the National Sheep Association, which released a statement by its chief executive, Phil Stocker.
“The area the trust is talking about is clearly a large proportion of Kielder and the majority of farmers we’ve spoken to there are opposed to the release,” he says. “It may be that Lynx UK has not drawn the important distinction between landowners and farmers, as land in that area is frequently farmed by tenants.”
The Lynx UK Trust say that in Europe, the average Eurasian lynx kills one sheep every two years and that they have already arrange insurance for every sheep in the UK against lynx attacks.