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  • Writer's pictureAmelia Ramage

Finding the Missing Lynx


Imagine you're walking through a typical UK woodland landscape; the beautiful, dappled light of the sun casting patterns beneath your feet. You look around and bask in the beauty of nature, only to notice many of the trees look the same. Very few shrubberies and flora make up its boarders. You walk further, and before you know it, you realise you’re no longer covered by the darkness of the trees and are greeted with a vast expanse of open fields. How many animals do you spot along the way? Maybe you come across a large herd of deer and you wonder how long these herbivores have dominated this landscape? Let’s think about this a bit more.


Reintroduction, a useful conservation tool:


For centuries, human influence has caused habitat loss, degradation and re-distribution of species (1). In some cases, human impacts have caused the total loss of a species in a given area (2). Sometimes species need a helping hand to overcome some of the natural and unnatural barriers they face to finding suitable habitats, and translocation is often a useful to do this.


Species reintroduction is a form of conservation translocation, involving the deliberate movement of plants, animals or fungi for the purpose of conservation (3). It comes at a great cost for NGOs and local councils. So, what’s the point in reintroduction at all and why is it so fought against?


The goal of reintroduction is to establish a healthy, genetically diverse, self-sustaining population in an area where it has been wiped-out or significantly reduced (4).Reintroduction has many benefits to society and habitats; it can increase the species richness to enhance biodiversity, increase the quality of the habitat and improve ecosystem services and function4. However, species can also be reintroduced into certain areas as a means of pest control.


The Eurasian Lynx:


Let’s take a closer look at the reintroduction of the Eurasian lynx to UK, an interesting and hotly debated topic. Over a millennia ago, the Eurasian lynx would have reigned all across the UK, but due to human-induced habitat fragmentation and hunting, it went extinct in the UK over 1,300 years ago (5). We know that this enigmatic cat once inhabited the UK from bones discovered in limestone caves (6). Since then, the eradication of apex predators from the UK has caused an overpopulation of grazing animals such as deer (7). This has implications for the health of our environment and can cause our land to become further degraded (7). The reintroduction of the lynx would be a useful way in maintaining the deer population, without culling them, whilst also increasing tourism outputs for those wishing to spot these beautiful and charismatic animals. Without predators such as the Eurasian lynx, UK forests are unable to regenerate, causing our biodiversity to suffer and become one of the most impoverished in the world (7).


So, what exactly is being proposed? Well, The Lynx UK Trust is working towards a 5-year trial reintroduction in two sites within the UK, see, sourcing them from populations in northern Europe (5). Over the course of 5 years, they will monitor both the lynx and their impact on UK wildlife and ecology.


One of the proposed reasonings to support the reintroduction of the Lynx into the UK, is the fact that it is a relatively small cat, solitary in its hunting, meaning there’s less chance of human-wildlife conflict (8). That being said, people are still weary for the lynx to be brought back to the UK. Some citizens, local to the proposed areas, are worried that livestock and/or pets maybe harmed by wild lynx (9). Also, critics of the Lynx UK Trust’s application argue that as the lynx went extinct so long ago, the UK landscape may have changed too much to support these animals anymore (9).


However, in my opinion, and I may be biased, but I think that we should be far more adaptable in our co-existence with nature. I believe we have a moral obligation to rectify the environmental disaster that was the UK lynx extinction and that ultimately, the lynx would do more good than harm if reintroduced. This reintroduction, however, needs to be done right and safely to protect the citizens of the UK and the animals introduced. The proposed 5-year trial, addressing all concerns along the way is possibly the best way to approach this. If you would like more information about what is being done to reintroduce the Eurasian Lynx to UK and/or would like to sign the petition, then please visit The Lynx UK Trust at https://lynxuk.org/.


So now, it’s 10 years from today and you embark upon another stroll through the British countryside. This time you can walk for miles before breaking cover of the trees, each one with unique traits. You can hear birds singing, insects clicking and in the distance, you hear the mysterious call of the lynx.



References:

1. Ridding, L. E., Watson, S. C. L., Newton, A. C., Rowland, C. S. & Bullock, J. M. Ongoing, but slowing, habitat loss in a rural landscape over 85 years. Landsc. Ecol. 35, 257–273 (2020).

2. Johnson, R. & Greenwood, S. Assessing the ecological feasibility of reintroducing the Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) to southern Scotland, England and Wales. Biodivers. Conserv. 29, 771–797 (2020).

3. Hunter‐Ayad, J., Ohlemüller, R., Recio, M. R. & Seddon, P. J. Reintroduction modelling: A guide to choosing and combining models for species reintroductions. J. Appl. Ecol.57, 1233–1243 (2020).

4. Coz, D. M. & Young, J. C. Conflicts over wildlife conservation: Learning from the reintroduction of beavers in Scotland. People Nat. 2, 406–419 (2020).

5. Trust, L. U. Lynx UK Trust. Lynx UK Trust https://lynxuk.org/.

6. Swindles, G. T. et al. Natural to cultural: The vegetation history of the southern Yorkshire Dales, UK. Rev. Palaeobot. Palynol. 284, 104328 (2021).

7. Hawkins, S. A. et al. Community perspectives on the reintroduction of Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) to the UK. Restor. Ecol. 28, 1408–1418 (2020).

8. Lynx reintroduction & conservation. Rewilding Britain https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/explore-rewilding/reintroductions-key-species/rewilding-superstars/eurasian-lynx.

9. Weston, P. Rewilding: should we bring the lynx back to Britain? The Guardian (2021).

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