Lynx could be reintroduced to the UK countryside as part of rewilding plans

Lynx could be reintroduced to the UK countryside as part of rewilding plans (Photo: Shutterstock)

A proposal to bring a rare species of big cat back to the UK’s forests has attracted support from a wealthy Scandinavian couple who own around 300,000 acres of land in the Scottish Highlands.

The scheme could see a number of lynx - a predator which was native to parts of the UK around 500 years ago - return to parts of the Scottish Highlands, as part of a wider rewilding campaign.

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Anders Holch Povlsen and Lisbet Rausing have committed to funding a large study to gauge public opinion on the reintroduction of lynx, a project which aligns with their goal of rewilding their estates in Scotland.

A similar application to reintroduce lynx into the Kielder Forest in Northumberland has been knocked back, as there was not clear evidence of local support.

By funding a £50,000, year long study into public opinion on the issue, it is hoped that the reintroduction scheme can attract sufficient support to warrant going forward.

Is there a benefit to reintroducing lynx?

Rewilding charities say that reintroducing species like lynx provides a boost to biodiversity and helps the environment, and that lynx in particular would help woodland by keeping the deer population in check.

Experts say there is enough habitat and prey in Scotland to sustain around 500 lynx, and that they could easily begin to migrate into Northern England eventually.

The campaign to reintroduce lynx in Scotland has faced keen opposition from the National Farmers Union, which argues that the big cats are a threat to livestock. Rewilding advocates argue that the scheme to reintroduce lynx would involve a compensation element for livestock.

Wolves, bison and bears

Lynx are far from the only species campaigners would like to see reintroduced into the UK’s countryside, with a number of other projects already underway and more hoping to get the green light.

A significant wild boar population has been established in the Forest of Dean in recent years, and a pair of adult beavers was also released there in 2018, as part of a project to assess their impact on the ecosystem.

Campaigners have discussed reintroducing other species, such as wolves, bison, bears and large birds of prey into the wild.