An application submitted by the Lynx UK Trust to reintroduce the wild cats into Kielder Forest, a few miles south of the England-Scotland border, is currently sitting on Environment Secretary, Michael Gove’s desk.
The Trust, based in North Wales, is proposing six Eurasian lynx, four females and two males, be reintroduced for a five year period, wearing satellite collars to monitor their movements. The last time Lynx roamed freely around Britain is thought to be 1300 years ago.
The Lynx UK Trust says reintroducing them into Northumberland could be a major boost to the tourism industry and put a brake on over population of their favourite prey, roe deer.
Whilst any releases would take place in England, the lynx could cross the border into Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage is also remaining fully informed of all details of the application.
John Lamont MP raised reintroduction concerns with the Environment Secretary, Michael Gove MP. Asked whether residents in the Scottish Borders will be consulted on any plans for lynx reintroduction, the Environment Secretary confirmed they would be. “I have raised this issue repeatedly with the Environment Secretary, Michael Gove MP. He has assured me that the views of Borderers, including farmers, will be taken in to account in the decision making process over the possible reintroduction of Lynx,” he said.
A fact finding visit to Norway by the National Farmers’ Union Scotland (NFUS) to see the impact a lynx reintroduction may have also raised concerns about the project. The visit revealed that 20,000 sheep in the last year alone have been killed by predators including lynx.
Earlier this year a lynx escaped from Borth Zoo, Aberystwyth in Wales, killing 7 sheep.
Rachael Hamilton MSP for Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire said: ”The NFUS’ findings are incredibly alarming. We must take lessons from our Norwegian friends and any threat to agricultural livestock must be a key consideration. Especially when the risk is so high. I would urge all those in the Scottish Borders to submit their concerns about any reintroduction and make sure their voice is heard.”
Chief Scientific advisor on the project, Dr Paul O’Donoghue, said: “The Lynx can bring huge benefits to the Kielder region; we could see a wave of economic regeneration as it becomes known as the kingdom of the lynx; a unique eco-tourism destination right in the middle of Britain. We’ve had a lot of positive feedback from local businesses.
“We’ve now reached a point where we feel every piece of research has been done, every concern that can be raised has been raised, and the only way to move truly forward is with an intensively monitored trial reintroduction of a small number of cats. That can tell us exactly how suitable the lynx would be for a larger reintroduction. We very much hope the lynx has the opportunity to prove it can bring so much to the local community and the UK as a whole.”