When it comes to rewilding projects, neighborhood matters – as Kirstie and Phil will tell you, it's all about Location, Location, Location.
And so, for a paper published in the journal Biological Conservation, researchers from the University of Stirling, Scotland, have identified what could be prime real estate for the possible reintroduction of the Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) to Britain.
Using simulations to predict how the animal would spread and colonize its new home over a 100-year period, the team compared the suitability of three Scottish locales: Aberdeenshire, Kielder Forest (in the Borders), and the Kintyre Peninsula (in Argyll).
Scotland, not England or Wales, was selected because there is sufficient, connected habitat, which would give the lynx the best chance of survival.
And the winner was... the Kintyre Peninsula. For a single-site reintroduction of 10 cats, the model predicted an 83 percent survival rate. In comparison, the model offered just a 21 percent survival rate for Kielder Forest.
To up the odds of survival, the simulations predicted a 96 percent survival rate when 32 lynx were split between two sites (the Kintyre Peninsula and Aberdeenshire).
"Reintroducing large carnivores is often complicated and expensive, meaning that getting things right first time is extremely important," lead author Tom Ovenden, a PhD researcher at the University of Stirling, said in a statement.
"This initial research is encouraging and suggests that Scotland is indeed ecologically suitable for the reintroduction of Eurasian lynx – but this suitability is highly dependent on where reintroduction takes place and more modeling work is required. Our research informs one aspect of a complex decision-making process that must involve a wide range of stakeholders and, as a result, it does not recommend whether we should, or should not, reintroduce Eurasian lynx to Scotland."
The rewilding of the Eurasian lynx, an animal once native to the UK, is a controversial project. While enthusiasts point to the environmental benefit of restoring biodiversity, saying it will increase the health of ecosystems bruised by human activity, others are concerned it could impact farming, worrying that a hungry lynx might view livestock as easy prey.
These pros and cons echo those against the rewilding of other apex predators, such as wolves. Even the reintroduction of the herbivorous (and relatively harmless) beaver has been a contentious decision.
"Returning the lynx to our landscape as a top predator could help restore the health of Scotland's natural ecosystems," Jo Pike, Director of Public Affairs at the Scottish Wildlife Trust, said in a statement.
"Any future reintroduction would have to be carefully planned, widely consulted on, and rigorously assessed against national and international guidelines. "
[H/T: The Guardian]