Monday, March 08, 2010

Lynx could be freed into English countryside

Lynx could be freed into Kent countryside

KENT NEWS: Ecologists at one of Britain’s largest national parks are considering reintroducing lynx into the Kent countryside.

The big cat could be one of a range of species brought back centuries after they first disappeared, with beaver and the common crane the other popular candidates.

Beaver have already been reintroduced to a reserve near Sandwich, but experts from the Cairngorms National Park believe this can be extended across other parts of the county.

And Eurasian lynx, which became extinct in the UK around 1,000 years ago, could become a more common sight if they are brought over from continental Europe and released back into the wild.

Dr Daniel Hetherington, one of the ecologists behind the report, said lynx could help keep populations of deer down.

“Lynx are able to live in quite small and densely populated areas and can control populations of deer,” he said.

“Another possible candidate would be beaver. There is already a scheme running in Kent, in Ham Fen, to see the environmental impact they would have on the area.

“Beaver can manage wetland reserves and create new habitats for wildlife. They can also reduce flooding by slowing water flows with dams they build.”

Birds, including the Eurasian crane, or common crane, have also been outlined as potential species for Kent.

Dr Hetherington said: “This draft report is in response to a national park consultation where a question was raised about whether certain species could be reintroduced to Britain.

“The report was driven by what economic and ecological benefits could arise through a national initiative like this.”

Experts backing the report believe lynx would draw in tourists as well as protect woodland by controlling deer numbers.

Fears of attacks on humans by the big cat were rebuffed by wildlife experts, who claim they are no danger to people.

Peter Smith, chief executive of the Wildwood Trust in Herne Bay, said: “There have been no casualties by lynx – they’re not dangerous.

“You wouldn’t want to antagonise one, but they don’t attack humans.

“They would be an excellent addition to Kent. There are deer all over the county and with such high populations they are affecting bio-diversity.

“Lynx don’t necessarily eat all the deer, but spread them out which allows woodland re-growth.

“We need a predator as the number of deer is increasing.”

Mr Smith also stressed how beneficial it is to have beavers reintroduced to the county, with a pilot scheme – jointly run by Wildwood and the Kent Wildlife Trust – already underway near Sandwich, at the Ham Fen Nature Reserve.

The creatures were hunted to extinction for their pelts in the UK in the 16th century.

Mr Smith said: “Beavers are so important for the countryside. They create wetlands and habitats for other wildlife.

“Wetlands act as a flood defence and can protect homes. They could save us hundreds of millions of pounds in flood defences.

“Beavers also help purify the water through managing the wetland, which filters out all the nasty fertilisers and chemicals.”

Mr Smith said reintroducing beavers has come up against opposition from farmers who believe the animals could damage their crops, with damning activity potentially flooding other problem areas.

POSTED: 07/03/2010 08:00:00


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