Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Wild Moments: The UK Cat Conundrum

** 'Wild Moments' posts are going to be a new thing for me in 2018 and will be 
mini-posts (perhaps written during a lunch break) on pretty much anything (relevant 
to the things I write about) which has caught my eye. There is a risk they will 
contain opinions (insert dramatic music here), but I hope they will mostly be 
balanced and well considered and maybe even educational - I live in hope! **

Wild cats in the UK. A divisive but popular topic at the minute and something which has been bugging me for a while. 

The debates on this subject at present focus on the very high profile and quite popular (in some circles) campaign to re-introduce Lynx to the UK. I've read quite a lot of material, from both sides of the argument - although I think there are more than 2 sides to this particular argument to be honest. I've even gone back to cited source material and read scientific papers about other reintroduction schemes else where in Europe to get the true context of the claims being made. I love the natural history of the British Isles and anything which aims to preserve or enhance the 'wildness' of my home countries is as far as I am considered a worthy venture. Further more as an adventurous sort of chap I would welcome the chance to catch of a glimpse of a lynx or for that matter a bear, or wolves or a moose wild in the UK.  

BUT - I do not agree with the sentiment below. It is not time to bring them home... not yet.

Image result for lynx reintroduction

The reason for this is nothing to do with the issues surrounding predation of livestock (although I think this a valid concern which I do not think is being taken seriously enough by those advocating the reintroduction). Nor is it due to concerns about the plans, locations (although I was staggered that Thetford Forest was considered as an option! I'm glad that was withdrawn from the final proposals) or poor attempts at cooperation with 'the other side' - the farming community.

It isn't even to do with a certain level of naivety which I feel has been displayed at various levels of the campaign - my biggest bug bear of which was what seemed to me like a deep seated lack of understanding of the importance of range sizes, population densities and the importance of a genetically sustainable population, but which also included the closed minded disregard of the potential threat, however small they deem it to be, to other peoples livelihoods. 

No, the reason I am against it is that while all this effort (and money!) is being poured into the proposed reintroduction of a species which we as a civilization have already failed, we are STILL failing its closest surviving relative in the UK - the Scottish Wildcat. Depending on which report you read (or believe) there are as few as 25 pure Wildcats left (now solely in Scotland) of a species which used to be far more wide spread throughout the UK. And the story is very similar to that of the Lynx - persecuted as a perceived threat to what is deemed more important. Of course with the Wildcat you also have the added complication and threat of hybridization from domestic cats which are allowed to roam free. Yet another example of humans ability to ignore the consequences of their actions and 'we've been doing it for years and we'll keep doing it'.

So there you have it, my reason for not currently supporting the Lynx reintroduction campaign is that I would much, MUCH rather see the vast expense that will inevitably be poured into the plans if they go ahead go into the pre-existing efforts into saving the wild cat we still have, because otherwise we will be in a position where we've lost that too!

Image result for Scottish wild cat conservation


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