Warning over plan to reintroduce wolves to Scotland

·3 min read
European grey wolf patroling through his forrest watching for prey
Campaigners hope to reintroduce wolves to Scotland. (Getty)

Plans to reintroduce large predators such as wolves to Scotland could damage support for 'rewilding', a leading conservationist has warned.

Francesca Osowska, chief executive of NatureScot, said that plans to rewild large areas of the countryside could alienate local people such as farmers.

She told The Guardian: "We need to think about rewilding as a much broader concept. We need to think about restoring all of nature, not just large mammals.

"And that goes from the pine hoverfly to ensuring that we've the right mix of forestry – different land types to have that mosaic of habitats.

"The vision I want is of a nature-rich future. Nature-rich means we're all touched by and living in harmony with nature and able to benefit from it."

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Osowska added: "Some people have taken rewilding to mean, 'Let's put the clock back, let's turn back time and turn our landscapes back to how they were before people were part of it.'

"And that’s not our version of rewilding. Our version of rewilding is absolutely nature restoration has to be working with people, with communities."

People in rural areas tended not to react well to the idea, due to an association with releasing apex predators or creating fenced-in nature reserves.

Scotland has long-standing projects to reintroduce golden eagles, sea eagles and beavers.

In recent years, plans to reintroduce larger predators have gained widespread support.

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Campaigners Wild Card said that Britain is among the most "nature-depleted" countries in the world.

Around the world, 60% of animals are livestock, 36% are humans and just 4% are wild – and the situation is thought to be worse in the UK.

The campaigners are calling for the Queen to rewild her estates in Balmoral and Sandringham, suggesting beavers, lynx and even bison could roam the land.

Chris Packham, Rowan Williams and Kate Humble signed an open letter to the Queen that urged her, as well as Prince Charles and Prince William, to consider rewilding their land as a "leaders of habitat restoration".

A survey of 2,100 adults by Savanta ComRes also found that nearly half (47%) of people would think more positively of the Royal Family if they rewilded their land, while only 8% said they'd think more negatively of them for doing so.

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Professor James Bullock, of the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, told Yahoo News UK: "The vast landholdings owned by the Royals – amounting to 1.4% of the UK – have incredible opportunities for rewilding.

"Much of Balmoral, and Dartmoor (owned by the Duchy of Cornwall), would naturally be covered in rare temperate rainforest. Today only tiny fragments remain. Today, Balmoral is run as a sporting estate for activities such as deer stalking and grouse shooting.

"If rewilded, the Balmoral estate could see the re-introduction of lynx, beavers and wolves which would help stimulate the return of rich and diverse ecosystems. Bison or long horned cattle could also be released to take the ecological place of now extinct ancient aurochs.

"At the Queen’s privately owned Sandringham, pine marten, storks, beavers and red deer could find a thriving habitat if the land was returned to nature

"Meanwhile, in the Queen’s North Yorkshire moorlands estates – like the Goathland estate – majestic birds of prey such as the Golden Eagle would be perfect for re-introduction into a newly wilded landscape."

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