Thursday, March 12, 2015

Eurasian Lynx to Return to Britain After 13 Centuries

Eurasian lynx

The Lynx UK Trust is preparing to reintroduce eighteen Eurasian lynxes in Britain where this shy and secretive cat had long since disappeared after nearly 1,300 years. What appears to be the most grandiose rewilding project ever to take place globally would mark the beginning of the first ever reintroduction of one of Britain's most apex predators. Solitary and secretive by nature, the Eurasian lynx was historically found from Britain to China. However, due to extensive human encroachment over the centuries, the Eurasian lynx population declined to a handful of individuals remaining in parts of western Europe. In Britain, the lynx was believed to be hunted to extinction for its fur between 500-700 A.D. As part of its efforts to bring the lynx back, the Lynx UK Trust has established a public consultation to find out the public's reaction to the reintroduction plan. It will then lodge a formal application with Natural England and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). The trust assured that because of the lynx's secretive and solitary nature, it would not pose any threat to domestic livestock. It further added that it is presently busy in a variety of research to determine possible locations in Britain to release the lynx. Preferred sites of reintroduction include Thetford Forest in Norfolk and Ennerdale area in Lake District. Similar reintroduction projects occurred in the past such as one in Switzerland during the 1990s which saw lynxes successfully breed and flourish in the country, and another in Germany where fourteen lynxes were brought to a site in the Harz Mountains in 2000 and yielded similar results.
Thetford Forest, one of the chosen reintroduction sites

The British Isles were historically home to some of Europe's most powerful predators, which included the lynx, the wolf, and the brown bear. However, these apex predators were virtually wiped out from their homeland centuries ago due to extensive human encroachment. This allowed the population of the prey species, especially deer, to steadily increase without the fear of population control by any predators. But now, with this reintroduction project underway, Britain is on its way to be restored to its former glory. The Eurasian lynx, which has long since been eradicated, is set to make a comeback after thirteen centuries. Not only does this solitary and reclusive cat pose much threat to domestic livestock and farmers, but is a crucial asset to Britain's ecology in keeping the populations of deer and agricultural pest species under control. This is essential because centuries of the lynx's absence has left Britain's natural environment in a state of imbalance due to the overpopulation of deer. Britain is still absent of wolves and brown bears after centuries of persecution and human encroachment. It is also highly essential to reintroduce these apex predators to the country, in order to further restore its natural environments. Proposals to reintroduce wolves in Britain date back to late 1990s and early 2000s, but have never since been carried out due to opposition by farmers fearing that they would lose their livestock. But even without wolves, Britain's and Ireland's deer populations continue to expand leading to further damage in forestry and coming into contact with domestic livestock which would increase the chances of disease transmission. This is why it is highly crucial to reintroduce wolves, as well as the lynx, back to the British Isles in an effort to help further restore the ecological balance. As part of the effort, farmers should not just be reimbursed for livestock losses but also be provided with livestock guardian dogs as a harmless alternative to protect their animals from predation by wolves. Britain also has a significant wild boar population and these animals are known to raid the farmers' fields in search of crops. By having wolves and lynxes back in Britain, the wild boar population would be kept in check and minimize any chances of crop devastation and disease transmission. The brown bear also needs to be brought back to Britain, in order to maintain the ecological balance.

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