Rewilding - and why the lynx could one day make a comeback

Rewilding - and why the lynx could one day make a comeback

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Anyone with even a passing interest in history will know that modern-day Britain looks very different than it did several hundred years ago. Not only was much of the island covered in forests, but it was also home to numerous species that no longer roam among us, including wolves, bears and big cats.

However, many conservation-based organisations hope to change at least part of this - by reintroducing formerly native species that became extinct because of human hunting or habitat destruction.

Bring back the lynx?

One of these organisations is the Scottish Wildlife Trust, which has renewed its calls for bringing back the lynx to Scotland, saying there is a "moral and ecological" case for this and adding that such predators would restore balance to the ecosystem.

The last known fossil of a lynx dates back to the sixth century, but cultural records have suggested the animal may have lived into the ninth century before being hunted to extinction.

"It is important that we all understand the potential benefits of bringing back the lynx to our woodland ecosystems, but also to our forestry and tourism industries. At the same time we should understand the challenges that this beautiful once-native cat will bring with it," said Scottish Wildlife Trust's chief executive Jonny Hughes.
Trees for Life agrees, pointing out that the cat could help to control red and roe deer numbers without the need for human culls periodically. Meanwhile, the John Muir Trust believes even more strongly in rewilding and believes there is "no ecological reason" why Scotland could not have wolves again.

Successful rewilding elsewhere

Plenty of other rewilding projects have already been taking place, both in Britain and elsewhere in the world. For example, just this month, 30 fallow deer were released into the wild in the Rhodope Mountains of Bulgaria to restore the population there.

In 2005, 16 American bison were reintroduced to the American Prairie Reserve of Montana after an absence of more than 140 years. Now, the herd stands at around 440 and 130 calves are expected to be born this year.

Closer to home, the Glanville Fritillary butterfly has been successfully reintroduced to Somerset, the osprey is back in Rutland Water and the Scottish beaver became the first formal reintroduction of a native mammal species in the UK.

Support for rewilding

Clearly, numerous wildlife organisations are behind reintroducing species to their former homes, while the European Union's legislation is also supportive of such projects. 

Many members of the public have also been getting behind their local Wildlife Trusts in calling for humans to take responsibility for the return of native species, since we have usually been behind their demise.