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Welcome to the second issue of the Lynx UK Trust e-Newsletter


March and early April have been a busy time for the team. Whilst January and February saw us out and about regularly in the Kielder area, March has involved stepping back to consider the feedback we have been getting from the local community, both positive and not so positive. In particular the University of Cumbria devised the next stage of local community engagement work for April, which some of those reading will no doubt have started to get involved with this month. Indeed, if you are a local resident reading this and are keen to get involved, please drop an email to consultation@lynxuk.org and we will make sure you are included.
 
Beyond community engagement and consultation work, we have been working very hard with our advisors AECOM, Clifford Chance and our team of vets in order to ensure that the document being prepared for Natural England and Scottish Natural Heritage is up to scratch in time for summer. We are still hoping to submit this application, which is for a licence to release lynx for the trial, in June. Given that target, wish us luck for the rest of the month… I think it might be even busier than March!

Adam Eagle, Director

What do lynx eat?

AECOM was asked by the Lynx UK Trust following questions from people in the Kielder area to look into the question of what lynx eat. A review of the scientific literature found 16 studies detailing the diets of lynx across nine European countries. Together, these studies covered more than 6,000 predation incidents recorded through a combination of identifying carcasses, examining intestines, and analysing faeces.

The results of the review identified more than 50 different species eaten by lynx; ranging from small animals and birds such as voles and pigeons, to much larger prey including moose and wild boar. Several studies even recorded plants being eaten by lynx.

However, while lynx were found to eat a wide range of prey, there were some clear patterns about which species are preferred. Lynx are roe deer specialists and target them wherever they are available; with roe deer making up nearly 90% of lynx diets in some countries. Similar species such as reindeer or chamois are targeted after roe deer, and hares also make up an important part of the lynx diet.  As shown in the chart below, the remainder of the top 10 is made up of sheep, foxes, and game birds.

This high level overview, however, masks significant variations in diets across different countries; while roe deer are the preferred species across Europe, reindeer are only eaten in northern European countries such as Sweden and most of the chamois are eaten in Switzerland. For domestic sheep, the pattern is even starker, with 97% of the recorded incidents coming from Norway; where sheep are grazed, unsupervised in forest areas.  

Photo Credit: Lynx - Erwin van Maanen, 2016

In the fields with the Lynx UK Trust
 

In January 2017 I had the pleasure in joining the Lynx UK Trust team as an independent advisor for a community consultation in Langholm (Scotland) and in Kielder Forest (Northumberland).

As a mainland European from the Netherlands it was very interesting to be part of that process, to experience the various perceptions of people on return of the lynx as well as get an ‘ecological feel’ of the area where the lynx may get a new home.

At the Langholm meeting I was member of the consultation panel following a presentation by the Lynx UK Trust. I found this meeting to be very constructive - people were critical in posing relevant questions and concerns, but also predominantly open to the idea of the lynx trial. I can appreciate people's concerns. On the British Isles large predators such as the lynx had been tucked away deeply in the collective memory.

On the mainland large carnivores have lingered and survived in remote mountainous regions. Folk in these parts – such as in Romania – still co-exist with high numbers of large carnivores, for the large part harmoniously within a traditional livestock herding and hunting system. When I talk to shepherds in Romania for example, the lynx of all the big carnivores is always of least concern. It is regarded as a ‘small big cat’ living in the forest and avoiding humans with little impact on their interests. 

The Harz lynx project is a particular case in point. The region is comparable to Kielder Forest in terms of forest area, but differs in rural setting, with sheep farming being more important in Kielder. It was the foresters who initiated the reintroduction of the lynx in the Harz. Here growing roe and red deer populations were preventing forest rejuvenation, and the foresters and hunters recognized that hunting by itself was insufficient in curtailing the problem. In collaboration with ecologist Ole Anders and colleagues from the Harz National Park they realised the mission of re-establishing the lynx (after regional extinction in 1818).

The result of the initiative to date is remarkably positive. The return of the lynx has contributed to the German policy of creating ‘new wilderness’ (2% set aside) areas combining ecotourism, forestry, hunting and restorations of more ecological balance. Many people from all over Germany and abroad now visit the Harz and the lynx is clearly an attractor for the ecotourism and outdoor sports economy, on top of winter sports tourism. Even though only some residents and tourists only occasionally have a fleeting encounter with a lynx in the forest, the better opportunity of finding its tracks and the excitement of lynx presence is appealing. And visitors are sure to see the elusive cat at the lynx enclosure near Bad Harzburg, the town that has clearly branded the tufted-eared cat as an asset. Conflicts with human interests have since the 17 years of reintroduction been restricted to the occasional loss of a sheep or fight or flight encounter with an unleashed dog in the forest. To my mind the Harz lynx initiative in Germany provides an inspiration and reference for lynx reintroduction by trial in the Kielder Forest region.

Despite some of the odds presented against the lynx trial I was impressed by the enthusiasm, positive drive and constructiveness of the Lynx UK trust team working together in the field, and by their sensitive approach to informing and consulting people. I certainly wish that all parties involved will investigate the return of the lynx in a constructive and objective light, looking openly into achieving shared benefits and opportunities for a more sustainable ecology and economy in the Kielder Forest region.


Erwin van Maanen, The Rewilding Foundation

Read more about the Economic Impact of Lynx in the Harz Mountains in the Aecom report, available here on the Lynx UK Trust website


An Interview with Adam Eagle, Director

Sophus zu Ermgassen began volunteering with the Lynx Trust in 2016, and has helped develop the Trust's business strategy. Earlier this month he interviewed Adam Eagle to find out a bit more about how and why he became involved with the project, and where he sees it going.

How did you get involved with the Trust?
 

In the six months after university I travelled around European National Parks with my brother, who is an ecologist, in an attempt to soak in as much natural beauty as possible before finally dropping anchor in London. We visited some inspiring places and had some fantastic experiences with wildlife, so when I returned I found it hard to shake the bug.
 
My solution was, with the assistance of senior managers at Clifford Chance, to find a way to work with wildlife conservation organisations to provide them with legal support, 'pro bono'. The Lynx UK Trust was one of those. I began my work with the Trust as a lawyer, although that's certainly no longer the case!
 
What is the kind of work that goes on behind the scenes when developing the case for a wildlife reintroduction licence?

Quite a diversity of things and every day is different! My role is in short a lot of communicating and coordinating everyone's activities. On top of that there's managing press, spending time raising what funds we are able to secure, liaising with the statutory agencies who we hope will eventually give the project its 'go-ahead' and writing up the extensive body of evidence, project planning, etc. into the licence application, amongst many other things.

The team does a lot of research and networking with European lynx projects in order to ensure we can properly evidence what we say about lynx in public and to the government agencies. We also have a whole team dedicated to working with local communities in Kielder and the Borders, that broad area being our proposed 'study area'.

You recently spent several weeks off grid trekking around the Swedish wilderness - what is it that attracts you to these kinds of places?

This is by far the hardest question of the bunch – how to pin it down? Explaining the 'why' of my love for wild places is something I have always struggled to do.
 
I like a challenge and I enjoy seeing nature because I find it fascinating and beautiful, so that's part of it, but it really doesn't cover it.
 
I can only explain by example. Its the feeling that I experience when I sit on the side of a mountain and look out on a vast open valley, river coursing through its base and impenetrable forests lining each wall, with nothing human in sight in any direction. It's primal and it's humbling and it's beautiful.
 
Do you think that the lynx might be able to restore some of this back into the UK countryside?
 
I'm certain they would.
 
Anything else to add?
 
This is a fantastic project to work on and the team never ceases to amaze me with their commitment, intelligence and inspiring attitude to wildlife conservation. We might not have much in the way of funding, but we have a fantastic team of passionate volunteers, experts, advisors and partners, numbering at least 40 people with expertise in ecology, environmental economics, veterinary science, project management, law, PR… the list is extensive! To date they have committed thousands of hours of their personal time and not a single penny has been paid to them for their work, whether expert or wildlife enthusiast. However, we still need all of the support we can get, so please join us by finding a way to help out – it might be sharing a post on facebook, joining in with constructive and positive discussion online, going on a sponsored hike or something else you can offer, but it will genuinely make a difference to this project.

Photo Credit: Project Documents, Erwin van Maanen, 2016


Costs of Monitoring and Maintaining the Lynx Population
 

A cost-benefit analysis for the reintroduction of lynx to the UK was carried out by AECOM in October 2015. This analysis looked at the potential costs and benefits of a reintroduction of lynx over a 25 year period at five potential sites in the UK.
 
In the first of a series, we have summarised their analysis of one of the expected impacts of the trial reintroduction scheme as a useful guide and to help increase public awareness.
 
Managing the reintroduction of lynx is likely to involve certain costs. In addition to the costs of the initial five year trial period, there may also be longer terms costs if lynx need to be monitored or trapped for testing or relocation once the trial period has ended.
 
Key Facts

  • The costs of managing the lynx population will not be borne by the UK government (and therefore not by the taxpayer).
  • A large proportion of costs are expected to be met through voluntary donations (e.g. voluntary vet time, PhD funding).
  • The ongoing costs once the trial period has ended were estimated to be around £5,000 per year.
  • Total potential costs over a 25 year period were estimated to be around £0.7 million per site. (For comparison, expenditure on the trial reintroduction of beavers in Scotland was £2 million over the seven years between 2007 and 2015).


The above figures do not include the amount of a compensation fund. This will be covered in the next newsletter.
 
Further details and figures are available in the full cost-benefit report, a copy of which can be viewed here.
 
AECOM are now working on a more detailed cost-benefit analysis specific to the Kielder area. This will involve the development of a more detailed project plan and estimate of the budget for the proposed trial.


Adam Dalton, volunteer

Copyright © 2017 Lynx UK Trust CIC, All rights reserved.


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