A leading conservation charity has called for the reintroduction of Europe's third largest predator to suitable locations in Scotland. The lynx effect might add excitement to a quiet walk in the woods, but identifying locations is just one of many potential challanges for a project that would be likely to face vocal opposition from farmers and the country sports lobby.
The Scottish Wildlife Trust thinks there is 'both a moral and ecological case' for reintroduction of species that have been made extinct in Scotland due to habitat loss and persecution. Bringing back top-level predators such as the lynx would help restore the balance in Scotland’s natural ecosystems, they say, which continue to decline under the influence of threats such as overgrazing and inappropriate development.
The Trust's Chief Executive Jonny Hughes said:
'The Scottish Wildlife Trust has experience in bringing keystone species back to Scotland, having been a lead partner in the groundbreaking Scottish Beaver Trial, a trial reintroduction of the Eurasian beaver to Argyll. This was the first ever licensed reintroduction of a mammal species to the UK.'
'The five-year scientific monitoring period of the Scottish Beaver Trial has now come to an end and we await a ministerial decision on the future of beavers in Scotland.'
He believes that lynx should also be considered for reintroduction, and that in future it could serve as a 'flagship' for the restoration of native woodland habitats.
'Although reintroductions of this nature are complex and must follow strict international guidelines, Scotland is leading the way with its new Scottish Code for Conservation Translocations launched by the Scottish Government earlier this year, through the work of the Scottish National Species Reintroduction Forum of which the Trust is a key member' he said.
'Finding the right locations will be one of the major challenges for a potential lynx project and there will be a range of stakeholders who will need to work in partnership to ensure the best chance of success and support, as has been the case in the Scottish Beaver Trial.'
'It is important that we all understand the potential benefits of bringing back the lynx to our woodland ecosystems, but also to our forestry and tourism industries. At the same time we should understand the challenges that this beautiful once native cat will bring with it.'