Nature lovers want to bring the lynx, wolf and wild boar back into the wilderness of Scotland.
The new environmental campaign group Rewilding Britain has proposed plans to reintroduce once-native species that were hunted to extinction. This proposal has, however, not received sweeping support — farmers, the Scottish government and other organizations oppose reintroducing large predator species.
The National Farmers Union (NFU) of Scotland urged the government and the Scottish Natural Heritage to "show stronger leadership" on the rewilding issue. According to the union's vice president, Andrew McCornick, recent history is a reminder of the "impact" reintroducing species has on the many benefits the Scottish countryside delivers — such as food, environmental goods, forestry, field sports, renewables and tourism.
The government stated that there are no plans for the reintroduction of large predators.
But whereas these predators pose some obvious threats and reasons for concern, the people behind Rewilding Britain believe the presence of the contested animals would have many positive effects as well.
"These are important keystone species which actually drive ecological processes and we should be looking a lot more seriously at bringing these animals back," said spokeswoman Susan Wright.
The lynx is a roe deer predator and could be useful in areas with an overwhelming deer population. The lynx mostly remains in its habitat in the woods, and is not known to attack humans.
The wild boar grubs in the woodland floor and helps increase diversity of plants. Tree seedlings rise through an impenetrable forest mat when the wild boar digs up bracken rhizomes. The wild boar's wallow also houses water-loving plants, amphibians and insects. Wild boars have escaped into farms and other parts of the countryside, but are more threatened than threatening to locals.
The wolf, though known to be ferocious, could be a beneficial predator in the Scottish Highlands highly grazed by deer. It may pose a threat to livestock, but as much as possible, it steers away from humans.
Locals are however doubtful that reintroducing these three large predators would indeed be beneficial. Damages caused by the reintroduction of two other species – beavers and white-tailed eagles – have not helped convince them. The beavers' dams caused erosion and flooding, while the while white-tailed eagles killed farmers' lambs.
Meanwhile, supporters of Rewilding Britain note that large predators are welcome in other European countries. They believe Scotland should not be any different.
The group stressed that its plan to reintroduce lost animal species will lead to the regeneration of forests, and will allow seas to recover from the hazardous effects of industrial fishing.
Photo: Susanne Nilsson | Flickr