As a final step before submitting the license application, the Lynx UK Trust is hosting two online consultation events, to be streamed across Facebook on the evenings of the 4th and 17th of February. The online consultations will build upon earlier consultation work in the community to discuss plans to reintroduce the Eurasian lynx to the UK.
Eurasian lynx were present in the United Kingdom up to approximately 1300 years ago, when every last individual was killed by humans for the fur trade. Since then, with the keystone species missing from their forest ecosystems, UK woodland habitats have been unbalanced and deteriorating and we are repeatedly seeing highly damning reports on the state of nature in the UK.
Lynx are drivers of large scale habitat restoration, and as specialist deer hunters they can begin to impact both numbers and behaviour of the deer population in the UK. Oren Taylor, a philanthropist funding the project says, ‘ They are widely considered to be perfect reintroduction candidates because they are no risk to humans, pose very little threat to livestock and are charismatic and beautiful animals, which are drivers of ecotourism in rural communities which can generate millions of pounds each year’.
Lynx have been the subject of numerous successful reintroduction programmes across Europe (e.g. Germany, France and Switzerland) and recent scientific publications have shown Kielder Forest is considered to be the premier location for a lynx release in the UK, with research suggesting that the area has a long term population viability of over 90%.
Michael Gove rejected the first application in 2018, however the situation is completely different now. Dr Paul O’Donoghue, Director of the Lynx UK Trust says, ‘The whole environmental agenda in the UK has changed, reintroducing lynx into the UK is now a mainstream concept and the protection and restoration of our broken ecosystems is very high up on both the public and political agenda. What was seen as wildly ambitious in 2018, is now seen as essential and urgent.’
To illustrate this point. Tony Juniper, the new head of Natural England, has been widely quoted as being in favour of lynx reintroduction and even some of the more conservative conservation NGO’s are now talking positively about it.
O’Donoghue continues, “Our team has been working extensively on the application, and we have spent the last two years carefully addressing the feedback provided by Natural England after our first license application. We are now very confident that this application will be approved. Major changes are that a Habitat Risk Assessment is now place, and we have halved the number of lynx we want to bring in from six to three.”
Further business support has also been gained which both addresses Natural England’s feedback and opens up the possibility of long term sustainable tourism based around Lynx in Kielder.
John Hallowell, a Northumberland resident and Director of Wild Wolf Experiences, already runs successful lynx ecotourism projects in Spain and says, “We are incredibly excited about working with the Lynx UK Trust to create a thriving ecotourism business in Kielder. I have seen first hand the hugely positive impacts that lynx have brought to struggling rural communities in Spain and I have no doubt that we can emulate this success in Kielder”.
The Lynx UK Trust has previously spent a period of 18 months working on extensive local consultation activity in the area, engaging with local community members and businesses. Now, to follow up on that work, and as a final step before submitting the application, the Trust is hosting two online consultation events to be streamed over facebook. Details of which can be found on the Lynx UK Trust facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/lynxuktrust) and website (www.lynxuk.org).
O’Donoghue comments “These local consultations are so important, and thanks to technology, despite the Covid restrictions, we are going to be able to reach more local people than ever before and provide an opportunity to answer and address any outstanding questions about the project”.
Once completed, findings from the consultations will be included in the application that is submitted to Natural England. If approved, the lynx will be translocated from Sweden, acclimatised in pre-release enclosures and then released into the forest wearing state of the art GPS collars. The team on the ground will know where each lynx is 24 hours a day and extensive analyses of their impact on the local area will be carried out.
Dr O’Donoghue concludes, “The resubmission of our license will be for a highly controlled, five year, scientific trial. It will be entirely reversible at any time. It is important to note that if it wasn’t for the English Channel, lynx would have recolonised the UK already as they have successfully done in Holland and Belgium, to much public fanfare”.
Provided by Lynx UK Trust.