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“Re-wilding” plans raise alarm

[Wednesday 30 September]

Suggestions by Defra secretary Hilary Benn that parts of the countryside could be “re-wilded” by re-introducing species like lynx and elk have been attacked by the Country Land and Business Association (CLA).

The idea of bringing back once indigenous species like beaver, boar, wolves and even bears are becoming increasingly fashionable amongst some landowners, perhaps with an eye on increasing tourism.

But for Mr Benn to call last week for a review of the possibility of bringing back the lynx, a wild cat that grows as big as a medium sized dog, and the elk sent shivers down the spine of farmers and most landowners.

CLA Deputy President William Worsley commented:"Any animal population, once established, has the potential to spread, and we wonder what is being to done to assess the extent of the wider area likely to be affected.”

Director CLA North, Douglas Chalmers, said: "Before any decision on whether wild animals should be introduced is taken, there should be an informed discussion with everyone likely to be affected and in the necessary detail. There are many factors to consider, including the social and environmental effects, before an educated decision can be taken.

"We cannot introduce new links into a natural food chain without being aware of all the possible implications. How do we ensure that the new population, once established, will not spread?

“Books and films are littered with the disastrous results of well-meaning reintroductions. No one is predicting ‘Jurassic Park’, but we do risk upsetting a balance of the environment that has evolved naturally in tandem with human occupation and enterprise.”

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