In what is nothing more than a geological blink of the eye, we have changed Scotland’s landscape beyond recognition. The wild forest that once reached into every highland glen is now a mere memory, as is the ghostly shadow of a secretive cat.
Across mainland Europe, the Eurasian lynx is staging a comeback. Freed from the pressures of unsustainable hunting and benefiting from a softening of public attitudes, this enigmatic feline is gaining in number and expanding its range. Here in Scotland however, the return of large predators remains a tricky conversation, for a number of reasons.
There is irrefutable science backing the vital ecological role of large carnivores in maintaining healthy living systems, but returning lynx to Scotland is not about science but about people and their willingness to live alongside an animal that we’ve long forgotten.
As an organisation, we recognize that lynx cannot and should not be forced upon the people of Scotland, but against the backdrop of a climate and biodiversity emergency, we have an opportunity to restore not only an individual species, but the missing ecological processes that it brings.
To accurately evaluate levels of support for the return of lynx, a transparent and accessible process of public consultation is required. This process must be inclusive in order to produce meaningful, representative conclusions about the level of tolerance for lynx, and therefore, the likely success of any reintroduction. We are working with partners to set this process in motion.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
- Predator-prey interactions, carcass scavenging and nutrient cycling are all either limited, or entirely missing across much of the Scottish landscape. As an apex predator lynx would restore an ecological process that has been absent for centuries.
- Deer numbers in Scotland are now higher than any other European country, their browsing impacting on vegetation and woodland recovery. Lynx perform an efficient deer management service free of charge, 365 days per year.
- Despite being extremely elusive, in countries like Germany, lynx are used as symbols of a nature-rich landscape, attracting visitors and providing economic opportunities to rural communities.