Česká verze

Lynx could soon return to Britain

25.5.2016, Carnivores.cz

Although Eurasian lynx is still among the endangered species, recent reports invite some optimism. A study published at the end of 2014 in the prestigious magazine Science (with contribution of experts from Friends of the Earth Czech Republic) shows that in the 21st century, the populations of lynx and other large carnivores in many parts of Europe were stable or gradually increasing. Authors attribute such conservation success particularly to the improved legal protection and positive changes in public acceptance. Perhaps the most important result of the study is that even in densely populated Europe, large carnivores and people can share the same landscape. [1]


More good news came recently from Spain where a captive breeding programme has tripled the population of Iberian lynx over the last 15 years (hopefully, saving the species from extinction). [2]

This success provides encouragement to the conservationists of the Lynx UK Trust, who would like to see the lynx, after more than a millennium of absence, becoming once again part of the British ecosystem.

Recent finds provide evidence that the Eurasian lynx roamed Britain until about 500 AD (though cultural references suggest it might still have been hunted by people in the 7th century). Similarly to much of Western Europe, it disappeared due to habitat destruction (deforestation), lack of prey species and hunting for fur. In the 1950s the numbers of lynx in Europe were reduced to only 700 individuals; since then, lynx have been successfully reintroduced in several parts of Europe (including the Bohemian Forest in the Czech Republic). In some of these areas, the lynx reintroduction brought a new economic boost to remote rural regions, wildlife tourism being a growing business. Positive impact on UK tourism, as well as ecology and farming, is what those in favour of lynx reintroduction hope for.

Photo: Martina Dušková

Cairngorms National Park: the forest is slowly returning thanks to strict control of deer population.

More hope comes from other successful reintroduction projects, involving endangered species such as white-tailed eagle, osprey, red kite and experimental reintroductions of European beaver in Scotland. Many of these projects were conducted with the participation of the Lynx UK Trust leading experts.

Last year, their efforts reached a new phase. In early March, Lynx UK Trust with a huge support in the media and on social networks launched a national survey to gather the opinions of people across the UK on lynx reintroduction. The preliminary results indicate a generally positive attitude of the British public towards the solitary, secretive creature over three quarters of respondents agreed with the proposal that a trial reintroduction of lynx to the UK should be commenced within the next 12 months.

Following the survey, detailed national consultation process has been carried out requesting feedback from a range of stakeholders at a national level. This phase is currently nearing the end and Lynx UK Trust is planning to apply for a licence to conduct trial reintroduction of lynx to the wild for a period of five years at one of the carefully selected locations.

The plan proposes to initially release six animals of breeding age from Romania. Each would be wearing a GPS collar for the purposes of tracking and they would be continuously monitored for 5 years. During the trial period, the Lynx UK Trust conservationists (who include experts in wildlife reintroductions, field research, ecology, biology and genetics) would assess the impact of lynx on the ecosystem and local community. If everything goes well during the 5-year-period, the hope is that the relevant authorities approve lynx reintroduction to other suitable sites on a permanent basis.

Photo: Martina Dušková

Glenmore, Cairngorms: the restoration of forest must sometimes be preceded by the removal of non-native tree species.

Proponents believe that the return of the lynx will have a positive economic impact partly due to the tourism boost, partly by reducing the damage caused by deer overpopulation.

(In addition to two native species of ungulates red deer and roe deer and fallow deer introduced to Britain as soon as 11th century, several invasive deer species spread here over the last 150 years: Sika deer, muntjac and water deer. Lynx could significantly contribute to controlling their populations.) [3]

The principal opponents of the plan are mainly sheep farmers (represented by the National Farmers Union). Although the experience from other parts of Europe clearly shows the damage caused by the lynx to livestock is negligible, the Lynx UK Trust guarantees to cover any potential losses of farmers.

Possible the last refuge of lynx in the British Isles was the Cairngorms mountain range in the Scottish Highlands due to its remoteness one of the last places in Scotland to suffer deforestation; some remnants of the native Caledonian Forest still exist today. Scotland was also the place where the last British wolves were hunted to extinction around 1700. The restoration of native forests in the Scottish Highlands with the help of volunteers is the aim of charity Trees for Life.


The author is a translator.


[1] Recovery of large carnivores in Europes modern human-dominated landscape, Science Vol. 346 no. 6216 pp. 1517 1519, 19 December 2014

[2] See BBC News

[3] Research shows that even small population of apex predator significantly alters the behaviour of herbivores which, through the top-down process, results in a greater overall balance in the ecosystem. The presence of lynx makes roe deer move more often from one area to another, thus enabling a gradual restoration of the forest.


Lynx UK Trusts Proposal for a Trial Reintroduction (PDF format)

George Monbiot Feral: Searching for Enchantment on the Frontiers of Rewilding (May 2013, Allen Lane) ISBN 978-1846147487


Friends of the Earth are able to carry out projects on protection and monitoring of large carnivores thanks to generous support of individual donors – Friends of Large Carnivores. Please join us here.

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