A LEADING wildlife expert has called for Scotland to accelerate plans to re-introduce extinct species.
Speaking ahead of a major conference today, Roy Dennis said he thinks the Highlands could support the reintroduction of the lynx and the wolf.
But Mr Dennis, who was instrumental in bringing the white-tailed sea eagle back to Scotland, said he worries Scotland is too "conservative" when it comes to reintroductions.
Mr Dennis, honorary president of the Highland Wildlife Foundation, said: "I've always been keen on us having lynx and wolf back – I think they could all live in the Highlands again.
"But I'm still seriously concerned that we're extremely conservative in this country. Industry, agriculture and other forms of human activity just get on with things. You have a far greater entrepreneurial spirit in business but in wildlife conservation it's all terrible slow and bureaucratic. We could do so much more."
Both conservation bodies and government agencies would have to improve the way they work together in order to speed up the process, he added.
The "Wild, free and coming back?" event – which has been organised by the charity Trees For Life and the Wildland Network at Findorn, in Moray – will discuss current re-introduction projects, including sea eagles in the east of Scotland.
Delegates will also debate the re-introduction of other species, such as wild boar.
The two-day conference will hear about ongoing habitat restoration projects, including the Carrifran Wildwoods in the Moffat Hills, efforts to restore the Caledonian Forest in Glen Affric and the much-publicised project at Alladale, in Sutherland, which featured in the recent BBC2 series The Real Monarch Of The Glen.
Paul Lister, who inherited a fortune his father had amassed through the MFI chain, already has elk and wild boar on his Alladale Estate and wants to bring back lynx, wolves and bears.
Dan Puplett, one of the conference organisers at Trees For Life, said: "Many of the discussions will be about long-term aims but we'll be looking about ways of moving reintroductions forward.
One of the topics will be wolves and a theoretical target of reintroducing them by 2043, 300 years after legend says the last wolf was shot in Scotland.
"We will also talk about the beaver and the lynx, which many people think is a much more realistic candidate."
While delegates will consider further re-introductions, a number of species are already back in Scotland. Beavers will be reintroduced next spring to a trial site in Knapdale, in mid-Argyll, in a project run by the Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland.
Simon Jones, the project manager, said: "At the moment, the 20 beavers for the trial are being caught in family groups in Norway. They will be held there for four weeks before being brought to Devon, which has the best facilities in the country for quarantining these animals."
Last month, a further 15 young Norwegian sea eagles were released on the east coast. Claire Smith of the RSPB, said: "One of the males has been on the Isle of May since 23 August, eating fulmar chicks and gulls, while one of the females has commuted between Montrose Basin, in Angus, and the site in Fife where most of the chicks are still roosting."