You are on page 1of 14

Will the reintroduction of native species to the Scottish Highlands be beneficial to the environment and the surrounding communities


Introduction: Recently there have been a number of proposals for reintroducing native species to suitable habitats in the UK. These have included beaver and predators such as lynx and wolf. The Scottish Highlands are deemed the most suitable place to reintroduce these creatures in Britain. Environmentalists argue that introducing these predators would help control the out of hand red deer population. This would help the re-establishment of plants and birds which are currently being affected by the over population of deer. All over Europe and America animals such as the wolf are either returning unaided or being reintroduced. According to surveys a majority of people in the UK feel positively towards the reintroduction of animals, even wolves. If this is the case why hasn’t it happened yet? One reason is the reaction of the Scottish public has not been all positive. Some people believe that because these species have been extinct for a long time the Scottish landscape will have changed too much for these animals to survive as they once did. Farmers believed that predators such as wolves eat livestock and could attack people. It’s

2008. This source is taken from a chapter of his book “Managing Scotland’s Environment”. Wilson is a lecturer in Napier University’s school of life sciences. He has posted many articles on the subject of reintroduction and all off these are against reintroduction. He is a senior lecturer for the school of geography and geosciences in St. Source 3: Charles J. With regard to the reintroduction of beavers. However. Andrews University. He leaves no doubt about his opposition to the EU legislation on reintroduction. He has published various materials on Scotland’s environment and is a member of the Royal Geography Society. He has an MA in Geography at Oxford and an MSc in Natural Resource Management at Edinburgh. One of his . He argues that for species that have been extinct for a long time. His belief is that introductions won’t be controlled and that these species won’t fit into the Scottish countryside. changes in land use make re-introductions undesirable. 2004 and in the Mammal Review Volume 34. Issue 3 in July 2004. Are their concerns justified? Source 1: Magnus Linklater is a Scottish journalist who writes for various newspapers. he is willing to concede that a case could be made for more recent extinctions. His article “Let’s not go back to the Middle Ages” was featured in ‘The Times’ on December the 10. never mind Scotland. Summary: Source 1: The arguments that Magnus Linklater makes are completely against the reintroduction of any native species to anywhere in Britain. He is unable to understand why people are considering reintroducing these animals and compares it to the introduction of Grey Squirrels. Anglers and farmers complain that the reintroduction of beavers would be against their interests. This article was published online on March 31. he argues that the Scottish environment has changed too much for beavers to live like they once did and disputes all the potential benefits put forward by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). Source 2: The author is Dr Charles Warren.not just the predators that are seen as the problem. His ‘evidence’ consists of brief interviews with a farmer and a politician who agree with him.

saying that even though the RSPB knew that farmers were unhappy with their plans. He then tackles lynx reintroduction for which most his initial arguments are the same as his arguments for wolves however he feels that the lynx is more likely to be accepted because they have a better reputation than wolves.main opinions is that conservationists ignore rural communities. He also states that they are a keystone species in forest habitat with hydrological and conservational advantages. He also explains the current situation of the reintroduction of wolves. economical & ethical. He explains it would be ethical because we were the cause of their extinction so we should aid their return. His first argument being it is ecologically feasible as it helps efficiently control red deer populations. Even if they do attack farmers livestock he gives the idea of compensation funds to keep them happy. He moves onto people’s reactions to wolves’ reintroductions and his next argument acts as a reassurance that wolves rarely attack humans. ecological. There are also economical advantages as . This is when he starts his main argument. He also says that lynx will restore missing ecological processes. He considers the RSPB’s response that sea eagles are more likely to eat fulmars than sheep as “irresponsible” and his interpretation is that conservation bodies should not regard native species as “little more than a larder for a newly introduced killer species. for instance the possible sites for wolf introduction and why these have been deemed unsuitable. they still went ahead. He splits the chapter on beavers into two main sections: whether beavers are desirable or feasible? Again he uses an argument along the lines of it being our moral responsibility to reintroduce them. He expands on this by using the reintroduction of sea eagles as an example. He concludes that lynx are a bigger possibility than wolves but will not be reintroduced in the near future.” Source 2: Charles Warren categorises the arguments for and against the reintroduction of lost native species into four main categories: social. On the down side he also has a concern that they might start preying on rare native species. However he feels these will have to be taken up by volunteer organisations because the government are unlikely to comply His conclusion is that wolf reintroduction is likely to create a gap between rural communities and conservational bodies and make future reintroductions harder. He then moves on to the economical side of the argument which says that tourists will come to Scotland to wolf watch and when there is enough wolves people could take part in big game hunting.

the Scottish Highlands is the only part of the UK with the potential to support a viable population. He also briefly looks at the publics attitudes the reintroduction of some other mammals are also briefly reviewed. Attacks on people have been noted for wolves. There are also fewer people living in the Highlands and the amount of wild prey is higher than many places in Europe where large carnivores survive. The likelihood of beavers being reintroduced is high because they have started trial runs.beavers would become a tourist attraction and a game animal. . mass kills of up to 100 or more sheep have been occasionally recorded for wolves. His arguments all fit into three main columns: Do we have room for them? Are they a threat to people? Would their impact on livestock or economically important game or wildlife be unacceptable? He first evaluates where these predators could be reintroduced: he concludes because of the large land range and low population densities large predators require. He then moves onto the reactions of the public. However. Reintroduction of the lynx may be more likely but uncertainty about whether there is enough suitable habitat and potential damage to vulnerable native species such as capercaille needs to be assessed. He then moves onto the opposition made by forester and anglers and concludes that forester fears are valid while anglers aren’t. He concludes that the reintroduction of wolves is unlikely to happen anytime soon because of fear for livestock. however there are no reports of attacks by lynx. The general public doesn’t seem that bothered by the concept of reintroducing these predators. He also feels social. Wolves and Lynx have been known to prey on livestock but prefer wild prey if it’s available. economical and legal issues would need to be discussed before reintroduction can be considered. lives stock and valuable wild life. He also claims that the benefits that beaver introduction will outweigh any small local problems. lynx to find out if whether enough of the required habitat exists in the UK to hold a viable population of these species and to evaluate any potential risks to human safety. but people who are more likely to be affected by these animals have a more negative view on the matter. He reviews information on wolves. The outcome of these will decide the beavers future in Britain Source 3: The author focuses solely on carnivores not considering beaver.

He reasons that beavers have not been in Scotland since the 16th centaury.Analysis: Source 1: We know Magnus Linklater’s opinion from the first sentence where he states that conservation is verging on “lunacy”. Linklater’s first argument is fairly weak as it is irrelevant to the topic he is discussing.1] . and then goes on to explain in detail why Scottish Heritage who he claims to be “behind the project” (making it sound like an accusation) are taking up this project. However even though his disapproval of reintroduction is clear he doesn’t give much evidence to back up his opinion. He claims that the language is obscure however. this just emphasises how lazy his argument is as language is easily understood if it’s studied. He then goes on to criticise Scottish Natural Heritage saying that they should have learnt that “alien species” aren’t easy to control. and that the environment in Scotland was very different: Scottish woodland was heavily exploited for timber. which they are not. He compares the reintroduction of the beaver to the introduction of grey squirrels. leaving only 4% woodland area. He opens the next paragraph proving this stating that “it is far from clear why this is being done”. whereas grey squirrels were brought over with no control and no idea about how they would react to the Scottish environment. Although he provides figures to back up the fact that the “alien” grey squirrels are out of control and are wiping out the native red squirrels. Now only 1% of land surface is native woodland [1][fig. they are not of much use given that the introduction of an alien species and the reintroduction of a “native” species are completely different: Beavers are able to survive in the Scottish environment and there is some information on how they would react to living in Scotland. The Authors argument is weakened because he seems unable to understand the other side of the argument. It is in the next paragraph he makes his first strong argument. He again makes the mistake of classifying beavers as an “alien species”. charcoal and tanbark during the 17th and 18th centauries and by the 1900’s people had lost interest in woodland.

he refers to various articles [2] [3] saying how beavers dam salmon spawning sites. it is said that because beaver dams slow the rivers current it provides an ideal area for young salmon to grow and hide from predators which would benefit salmon spawning [4]. even though ospreys returned by themselves. He then moves on to the reintroduction of sea-eagles. He also says that sea-eagles are eating fulmars claiming that this is no better than them eating . so why would we want them back? Just when he’s starting to make strong arguments he puts emphasis on his lack of research by stating he understood the reintroduction of Ospreys. Humans have been helping ospreys through stopping egg collectors and moving some newly hatched chicks to England to establish a population there [5]. He feels that both industries are critical to Scotland’s economy and they are the reason beavers were wiped out in the first place.Figure 1: maps of woodland He then brings local fishing and farming industries into the picture backing up his argument against reintroduction: Farmers claim that wolves eat their livestock and he claims that Fishing is disrupted by beaver damning. Although they can hinder salmons journey upstream. as the nature of sea-eagles is that of a carrion feeder they are only likely to scavenge sheep [6]. However. Claiming that the RSPB ignored rural communities who said sea-eagles were seizing their sheep.

(fig. and the solid line wolf densities. the dotted line trophy stag (more than 5 years) densities. His first argument is an ecological one. he states that wolves would be an efficient way of controlling the red deer population referring to an earlier chapter of his book. Figure 2 . This leads him to consider economical benefits. . environment and habitat of Yellowstone is different to that of the Scottish highlands where the reintroduction wolves would have a different impact. however. Source 2: He begins with a brief summary of where wolf reintroduction stands and what plans have been made for their reintroduction. His next points are about it being ethical.Relationship between wolf and deer populations Although this is a valid point and he gives reference to back it up it could still be considered a weak argument as the size. 2003). Even though this is a good foundation for his argument. Standard deviations (thin dotted lines) around the lines do not include cases when wolves went extinct.livestock.3). He starts by stating that wolf watching will attract tourists just like it did in North America referring to Panaman. alone it will never be sufficient enough to lead to reintroduction. Still giving ecological arguments he claims there will be many ecosystem wide benefits like there was in Yellowstone. Reintroducing wolves will give us the elation of doing something morally good and we will be relieved of the guilt we feel because we’re the reason they became extinct in the first place. The dashed line represents hind (3 years or more) densities. The predicted transient population dynamics following the reintroduction of wolves to Scotland have been modelled by Nilsen et al. The grey points are wolf densities in the northern range of Yellowstone National Park following the wolf reintroduction in 1995 (from Smith et al. although fulmars are beautiful birds they have a well established population in the UK and their numbers are unlikely to be effected.

This conclusion reflects his arguments and also reflects how strongly farmers are against wolf reintroduction.2002.K. though at this time there are currently no suitable organisations in the U. Most of the complaints concerning wolf reintroduction are made by farmers and sporting estates owners.S. His arguments for the reintroduction of Lynx are either similar or the same as his arguments for wolf reintroduction. He briefly gives a run through their concerns which are mainly based on the high level of losses in livestock in Norway where the sheep are also left to roam free. He then provides a lot of figures concerning compensation in Norway and the United States provided for Wolf attacks. The ambiguity in this statement however still leaves us doubtful. The presence of wolves is also likely to put off visitors to remote sport estates like golf greens. however he states that government compliance to pay for this compensation is slim and that the voluntary sector would have to take over. This leads to his conclusion that although wolf reintroduction is completely legitimate the rift it would create between the conservation bodies and rural communities would destroy any future reintroduction attempts. he could have provided more evidence like the actual number of wolf attacks on humans. After showing an understanding over farmer’s fears he offers the idea of compensation to keep them happy. he again provides a reference providing a lot more evidence than in previous points. but such attacks do occur”.A) he says that one it’s big enough the wolf population could sustain big game hunting. 2002: “This is greatly exaggerated because healthy wolves rarely attack people. This opposition was expected as it’s their livelihood which might be affected if wolves are reintroduced. Again referring to the situation in North America (this time the U. Warren tries to counter this with a quote from Conover. instead he leaves it making a potentially strong argument useless. However like in North America game hunting is likely to be the cause of much controversy. Anecdote has played a big part in public opinion and the perception of the “big bad wolf” in many children’s tales has led there to the wolf being considered a serious threat. His argument towards lynx reintroduction is stronger than his argument towards wolf reintroduction because his arguments for lynx reintroduction are backed up . There is only one main difference: that is difference between public attitudes towards lynx and their attitudes to wolves: Lynx don’t have the same bad reputation and superstitions as wolves do putting them in a more positive light in the public eye.

Although the reintroduction of lynx is likely because of these issues it is unlikely to be in the near future. Foresters fear over the suffering of broad leaf riparian forests are valid. this is a valid conclusion as a trial is currently being run with positive results. But according to Parker and al. While explaining these reasons he always gives examples to strengthen his argument such as the several countries in Europe who have also one through beaver reintroduction and are finding it boosts tourism in certain areas. This reason comes in the form of a quote from Scottish Natural Heritage which makes it stronger than the first time he mentioned moral “responsibility”. This concludes strongly that Beavers are likely to be reintroduced. He then makes references to people who fear that lynx would attack native species such as Capercaille and wildcats. He now talks about whether it is possible. He show a lot of proof throughout the desirability section which shows that ecologically and economically it will bring many benefits. He argues that beavers are desirable because many people feel it is our “moral responsibility” to return them as we drove them out in the first place. He draws on Norwegian experience to validate their arguments. Source 3: He begins with the question: “Do we have room for them?” He begins by giving us background information on the required amount of space to hold the minimum . However many land users object and he now goes on to tackle the arguments made by Anglers and foresters. Concluding that there are more benefits than concerns which is what SNH and Macdonald have said as well.with more references and are given more examples.He starts with desirability first and kicks off with the same reasoning he started off the wolf section with. Economical reasons are tackled next and they are basically the same as the ones for wolves: Tourism and game. Knowing that this isn’t enough of an argument for the return of the beaver to be accepted he moves on to ecological reasons which he backs up with many quotes and referenced from/to different people and organisations such as SNH. His next section is on beavers he splits his arguments into desirability and feasablity. “fisher’s fears are unfounded”. However because of the overpopulation of rabbits. who believe the beavers have many conservational “advantages” making his argument fairly strong. also sea eagles and ospreys have brought a lot of tourism in Scotland. foxes and deer it is unlikely that the native species will suffer.

region (all are within Eurasia). However rather than just stating numbers he takes us through the process he went through to get them providing many references along the way which strengthen his conclusion: His results suggest 200-250 for both wolves and lynx.3]. He then goes on to make an estimate at the space requires to hold the viable population which he concludes with an explanation for the process in producing the number which is five times the size of the lake district. He shows just how the range required can vary through an example (all of Wilsons arguments are well thought through and prove that he must researched a lot into the subject as there is almost a reference every sentence): in North America wolf home ranges vary from 80km2 in Minnesota to almost 13000km2 in Alaska. He states that the further north you go the larger the range of lynx and wolves get. He claims that there is substantial habitat to hold these numbers in the highlands however because most of the land is under private ownership it is unlikely. while he states there are no published estimates for lynx and proceeds to give his own approximations.viable population (MVP): MVP is the smallest possible size at which a biological population can exist without facing extinction from natural disasters or demographic. environmental genetic stochasticity. Density per 100km2 (when available) and his sources for each figure. This time its human population densities and road densities which are significantly lower than in places in North America and Continental Europe [fig 2. this shows that the Wilson has made sure he has a thorough understanding of both sides of the argument before he made his decision . Through comparisons to other European habitats which have no more than 200 wolves (Breitenmoser. He now moves on to how the MVP is affected by habitat and the amount of land required to hold these species. Again he produces another reason which makes the Scottish habitat suitable for reintroduction and provides all the figures clearly and in an easy to understand way. 1998) he shows that these are substantial numbers especially when a majority of the habitats within continental Europe are much more extensive than the Scottish highlands. home range in km2. He gives various suggestions from other sources of the MVP for wolves and lynx: Wolves estimated at 100 by Fritts & Carbyn. he provides evidence for this in the form of a table which contains Species. leaving the author for the time being with a positive feeling towards predator reintroduction even though ultimately he is against it.

4 Population Density Fig. 1975) as Mech (1970) found there has been no scientific evidence to prove that there were attacks made by healthy wolves in North America and concluded that attacks in Eurasia .Fig. 5 Road Map Scotland He now moves on to his next question: Are large carnivores a threat to people? He starts of by investigating the wolves’ bad reputation for attacking people (especially children) and immediately dismisses that wolves are “innate killers of children” (Valverde.

this maintains a balance in his writing using his own working and methods to come up with his own hypothesis providing his own figures then proves them with various statements and percentages from other sources. While making these point he refers back to the table which has a list of studies he researched for it. Any Injuries recorded where accidents including injured. He even claims that females driven away from their cubs aren’t dangerous. This would be fatal to some farmers. The main worries about lynx are for livestock. He creates a table of his findings however he feels the methods in acquiring the figures in his table overcompensate for prey which is completely consumed of unlikely to be found or reported. he also makes reference to Reynolds & Aebischer thoroughly listing any research done. He starts of by analysing the importance of different foods in the diets of wolves and lynx. He provides another reference to prove what Breitenmoser states this time from Yalden (1999) who noted that lynx that live and hunt around Stockholm without being a direct danger to the humans living there. He also feels that avian prey is underestimated in numbers in many dietary studies so the impact may be higher than suggested in studies. He now moves to his final question: Would their impact on livestock. or wildlife be unacceptable? He starts by stating the research he has done and laid it out in a table. as most livestock in the highlands are kept through hill-sheep . 1998 and Vos.were exaggerated. captured or rabid animals. 2000 which suggest that wolf predication of livestock is usually small but they can have a big impact on individual landowners. (2000) that the lynx posed no threat to people and did not find anecdotal claims of a man-eating lynx. He gives information from Ciucci & Boitani. He feels this reputation was created by one attack in Romania which killed 20 people (Pimlott 1975) he makes sure to provide a reference for this and any other assumption he makes. He backs up the conclusion made by Mech by providing another reference this time to Boitani (2000) who confirmed that there were no reliably documented cases of non-rabid wolf attacks in Europe through the 20th Centaury. game. He also named all the methods he used so the reader can clearly understand this strengthens his arguments and the content of his journal as it proves he actually did some work himself rather than just copying and pasting other people’s research. He gives a conclusion from Breitenmoser et al. Kills were most common when sheep where left to roam freely in mountain areas. He draws figures from Tuscany which suggested an average of 3 sheep were killed per attack however in a small number of cases from 21 to 113 were killed.

he uses the sources to analyse his own arguments. however he feels there are still many things which have to be considered like lack of suitable habitat before this could happen meaning it wouldn’t be in the foreseeable future. The main problem with Linklater’s piece is that as a newspaper article it should be an informative piece of writing written to give the public important information. He has obviously done a lot of research and backs up almost everything he says with references and statistics. I found at times the number of references provided could become quite daunting and drowned out whatever his actual point was. however he does this to such an extent he leaves the reader unsure of what his opinion actually is. habitat and land area varies drastically form Scotland’s). whereas the lynx he feels could be reintroduced. In all I think his argument was well thought out. Linklater’s ‘article’ is completely biased with little information. take “healthy wolves very rarely attack humans. His work was well researched and well argued and he successfully detached himself from his writing. Conclusion: Out of the three sources I analysed Charles J. it’s arguments just lacked a sense of finish.farming this will strengthen the anti-reintroduction barrier. Although proven to not have an impact on farming lynx they have been proven to attack game animals and rare native species such as the capercaille: again Wilson provides a lot of evidence to make sure his point of view is validated. However. Wilson (source 3) provides the strongest arguments. Although Charles Warren takes the middle ground and keeps emotionally in control he often referred to the situation in North America for evidence (whose climate. He concludes that because of a bad reputation and opposition from livestock farmers wolves are unlikely to be reintroduced. but some attacks do occur” for example. there is so much more which could have been said instead he just quotes a slightly ambiguous sentence and leaves it open to interpretation. Another way he achieved this was by working out many of his own figures and explaining the processes as he went along. This emotional detachment contrasts completely with Magnus Linklater’s article which is lacking in research and understanding. The comparisons he made with North America should have been replaced with European countries especially Norway (He does refer to Norway at one point). He manages to do this without appearing to have copied and pasted everything. Even though I struggled to read .

uk/tol/news/uk/scotland/article5298702.aspx Maps and Pictures: [Fig.htm 2] [6] http://news.timesonline.ess.ece [3] [2] http://www. 4] http://www. 5] http://www.html [Fig. had sufficient evidence and reflected his conclusions [ Secondary Sources: Websites/Online Articles: [1] [4] journal I felt Wilson’s arguments in general where structured better. 1] [7] http://www.htm [