Farming News - Grave concerns for livestock as forest identified for lynx reintroduction

Grave concerns for livestock as forest identified for lynx reintroduction

19 Aug 2020
Frontdesk / Livestock

A forest near Loch Lomond has been identified as a "paradise" for lynx by a group hoping to reintroduce the animals to Scotland.The BBC has reported that the Lynx UK Trust is launching a public consultation on plans to release some of the big cats in Queen Elizabeth Forest Park near Aberfoyle.

It says it would be perfect for the Eurasian lynx which eats deer.

But Forestry and Land Scotland has said there are no plans to reintroduce lynx to Scotland and farmers' leaders have described the plans as "wholly unacceptable".

Lynx were wiped out in the UK by fur hunting and loss of habitat about 1,300 years ago.

A previous application to release lynx in the Kielder Forest in Northumberland was turned down in 2018.

The then UK Environment Secretary Michael Gove said government advisers had "particular concerns in a number of areas" - including worries over "organisational resilience", funding and a reliance on volunteers.

The Lynx UK Trust said discussions with Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) about the proposed Scottish release site have taken place and they will be kept "fully informed".

The trust claims Eurasian lynx are "a success story in European conservation", following reintroductions in countries such as Germany, France and Switzerland.

Director of Lynx UK Trust Dr Paul O'Donoghue said: "The Queen Elizabeth Forest park is a lynx paradise, it ticks all the boxes; high deer densities, extensive forest cover, extremely low human population density and no major roads.

"We have identified a 350 square kilometre project area site after discussion with Scottish Natural Heritage."

"This will not be imposed on anyone," he added. "Rather we see this as an opportunity to build strong networks with partners and stakeholders to deliver what is undoubtedly, the most exciting and large scale conservation project ever proposed in Scotland."

The trust claims no attacks on humans have ever been recorded by a healthy, wild Eurasian lynx anywhere in the world.

It added that they are "not significant livestock predators", citing figures indicating the average kill rate across Europe was 0.4 sheep, per lynx, per year.

Any proposal to introduce lynx in Scotland would be likely to face strong opposition from farmers.

NSA Scottish Region Chairman Jen Craig comments: “NSA Scottish Region will continue to represent the views of sheep farmers and crofters in Scotland who would be greatly impacted by any reintroduction of species into the country. The last consultation to date carried out by Lynx UK Trust was flawed and subsequently denied. It is also worth remembering that the Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing has also made his disapproval of any reintroduction in the past quite clear and we will continue to ensure that view is maintained in Scotland. Yet another predator to our flocks is certainly not required in these very tumultuous times.”

NFU Scotland's environment and land use committee chairman Angus MacFadyen said: "NFU Scotland remains crystal clear that any proposals to re-introduce predators such as lynx are wholly unacceptable to Scottish farmers and crofters.

"The past three to four years have seen a long line of brazen and presumptuous claims from Lynx UK Trust about the imminent reintroduction of lynx to the UK.

"Its only application to date, to reintroduce lynx to Kielder, was rejected."

Farmers have cited the example of Norway as showing the threat posed by a species such as the lynx to sheep farmers in particular.

NFU Scotland Vice President Martin Kennedy said: "On a study trip to Norway in Autumn 2017, an NFUS delegation heard that Norwegian authorities paid out compensation on 20,000 sheep lost to predators.

"Of the sheep killed in Norway, wolverine accounted for around 34% of losses with the lynx, bear and wolf accounting for 21%, 15% and 9% respectively."

He added: "Predation in Norway has reduced over the past decade - not because of fewer predators, but the fact that hill farmers have simply stopped keeping sheep."

SNH has confirmed talks have taken place with Lynx UK Trust, adding: "We are aware of plans by Lynx UK Trust to submit a licence application for the reintroduction of lynx.

"We met with the organisation on March 9th for an informal pre-application discussion at the request of the applicant.

"During the meeting we clarified what information would be expected to support an application to reintroduce lynx to Scotland, in line with the Scottish Code for Conservation Translocations."

A spokesperson for Forestry and Land Scotland said: "The Scottish government has been very clear that there are no plans to reintroduce lynx or any other large carnivores into Scotland, including on any part of the land that we manage.

"It remains the case - as we had advised in 2018 when this idea was first aired - that no approach has been made to us to access land for any lynx trial.

"We are not working with any groups exploring the possibility of re-introducing lynx to any part of the land that we manage and have no plans to do so."