We have good news at SustainaBox: our tree-planting operation is due to get under way very shortly. My post this week will cover the importance of reintroducing the Eurasian lynx to the UK to help protect tree-planting projects.
What is a Lynx?
The Lynx family comprises of four species: The Canadian, Iberian, and Eurasian lynx, as well as the bobcat. The Eurasian lynx was a former native of Britain, before hunting and deforestation drove them to extinction over 1000 years ago. Despite being the third largest predator in Europe after bears and wolves, they are typically very solitary animals. They range anywhere between 80 -130 cm and are strict carnivores, eating mainly roe deer, but also rabbits, foxes and gamebirds when food is scarce. It is important to note, there has never been a recorded attack by a lynx on a human.
The Return of the Lynx to Britain?
Despite the Government ruling against the return of the Lynx in 2018, ecologists are campaigning again for this predator to be trialled for reintroduction in the Scottish Highlands. The benefits of reintroducing the Lynx include:
- They are a keystone species. Removing apex predators has caused a trophic cascade, a leading factor of our wildlife decline.
- Lynxes belong in the UK. Human activity caused their extinction, so are we not morally obliged to return them to ensure a sustainable future?
- They pose less of a risk to livestock than bears and wolves.
What is the Reaction to Bringing Back the Lynx?
The success stories from rewilding projects outweigh the negatives. Wolves were successfully reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in 1995 to prevent large populations of elk overgrazing on the vegetation. More locally, beavers have been reintroduced to the River Otter in Devon, and they are here to stay. Despite the clear ecological benefits of rewilding, calls to return the lynx have been met with stern opposition—particularly in the farming community. The idea of lynx living cheek-by-jowl with livestock does not sit well with landowners.
Wolves once roamed the UK before extinction around the 16th Century
The Economic Factor of Rewilding Lynxes
Can those opposing the return of lynx be swayed by the potential economic benefits of rewilding?
It’s understandable that farmers are sceptical about rewilding lynxes; making a profit from farming is difficult enough without having to worry about loss of livestock. A possible solution would be to offer compensation to landowners whose livestock have fallen prey to attack by a lynx. However, one way to overcome any attacks would be to employ the role of a sheep dog, (like this pooch below).
Protecting our trees
As SustainaBox’s mission is to offer a meaningful contribution to the global goal of achieving net-zero, then any threat to tree-planting is obviously our concern. Despite their benign look, deer are a thorn-in-the-side for farmers and those looking to plant trees. In Scotland alone, 100,000 deer are culled every year. Imagine you are a farmer in the Highlands. You have the choice of shooting herds of roe deer that trample and eat vast amounts of vegetation on your land, or you could allow a controlled number of lynxes to do the job for you. Not only do they save you the time, not only is it more ethical, but you, and other local business owners, can line your pockets with the cash of tourists desperate to see the return of this beautiful creature. That seems a pretty good deal to me.
Would You Welcome the Return of the Lynx?
If the UK is serious about leading the fight to tackle the climate crisis, then engaging the public with nature should be paramount. Spotting zebras in the Serengeti, or tracking polar bears in Svalbard is great, but it is going to cost you. Working together to create a wilder Britain can make diverse and alluring wildlife accessible to all of us, whilst supporting local businesses. You can find more information about rewilding here, and you also follow the progress of the lynx application on the Lynx UK Trust website.