Published: 06/05/2018 02:34 - Updated: 06/05/2018 17:24

Lynx campaign reaches Boat of Garten

Written byTom Ramage

A young lynx

There is little hope of lynx being returned to the Highlands in the foreseeable future when even the reintroduction of the beaver remains controversial, it has been mooted.

A packed community hall in Boat of Garten on April 27 heard that the country was a shadow of its former self, with a shocking record in preserving its precious carnivores – all of its larger ones now lost.

Campaigning re-wilder Peter Cairns, of Glenfeshie, blamed our "ecological vacuums". The answer, he said, is to link up all the isolated patches of wildlife created after years of habitat destruction and persecution.

Mr Cairns believes that woodland corridors are desperately needed now to create a network of links between those remaining islands, to create a landscape capable of producing and sustaining a wildlife renaissance.

At the Boat of Garten it was pointed out that lynx thrived alongside people in Scotland until medieval times and that they could do so once again.

An authority on lynx, ecologist David Hetherington has produced a major new volume as part of the project "Scotland: The Big Picture".

"The Lynx and Us" author was the main speaker, also signing a mountain of his books, each of them exquisitely illustrated by specialist nature photographer Laurent Geslin.

Drawing upon evidence from across Europe, the book examines what it would be like to have an apex predator roaming wild in Scotland once again.

Lynx numbers are on the rise on the Continent through natural colonisation and reintroductions and there is support for the species’ return to Britain.

Dr Hetherington said tangible benefits would include helping to control the damaging effects of deer in commercial woodland, and opportunities to boost Scotland’s appeal for nature-based tourism.

He said: "Reintroducing lynx would be a milestone for British nature conservation. By preying on roe deer, they could play a vital role in maintaining healthy woodlands.

"But the lynx’s return could bring challenges too, so a respectful dialogue with those who live and work in the countryside is essential before any reintroduction could ever happen.

Evidence suggests that lynx survived in Britain until after the Middle Ages. The Highlands may be where it held out longest, and this is also where Dr Hetherington says a modern-day lynx population could live, given the area’s abundance of forest and woodland deer as prey.

But one weary battle-scarred beaver backer from Tayside believes that the backing of land managers will be crucial to a lynx reintroduction success.

"The vote to grant beavers European Protected Status is still not a done deal," said Elliot McCandless, of the Scottish Wild Beaver Group.

"Negative press based on land managers’ opinions rather than fact appears to be having its intended impact, but I remain hopeful that beavers will receive European Protected Status later this year."

The distribution of 500 of the new lynx books to stakeholders, it is hoped, will allow people to be informed prior to any reintroduction.

Farming leaders recently reiterated their opposition to the return of lynx in the wild.

NFU Scotland vice-president Martin Kennedy said: "Our stance on the reintroduction of lynx, or any predatory animal, into the Scottish landscape continues to be that we are firmly against it."

"The Lynx and Us" by David Hetherington, with images by Laurent Geslin, is published by SCOTLAND: The Big Picture and available from Bookmark, Grantown.

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