Mammal Society Position Statement on the Reintroduction of the lynx to Britain

The Eurasian or northern lynx, Lynx lynx, is native to Britain. Previously thought to have become extinct in the Mesolithic as a result of climate change, radiocarbon dating of fossil remains shows it survived until at least the early Medieval period. Gaelic and Cumbric accounts suggest even longer persistence, though the exact dates are unknown.  Its extinction was almost certainly a consequence of human activities including direct persecution, hunting, habitat loss and local extinction of prey species such as roe deer (Capreolus capreolus).

There is currently a legal imperative under the Habitats Directive to consider reintroductions of extinct species to EU states.  In addition, proponents of ‘rewilding’, argue that the reintroduction of large animals that have become extinct since the last Ice Age is a key element in restoring ecosystems that are functional in the absence of human intervention.

Any reintroduction needs to be carefully planned, regardless of the species concerned, to maximise the likelihood of success and to reduce the risk of conflict with people and other wildlife.  Guidelines for species reintroductions have been developed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and in Scotland these guidelines have been built-on to produce The Scottish Code for Translocations.  Mindful of these guidelines, the Mammal Society outlines below the steps that it believes must be taken to develop a responsible reintroduction strategy.

  1. The likely causes of extinction must no longer be present.  Lynx probably became extinct in Britain owing to lack of habitat and prey, and due to direct killing by humans. Reintroduction plans need to assess the likely impacts of plausible levels of persecution, prey availability and habitat suitability on population viability.
  1. There should be sufficient habitat and prey to support self-sustaining populations.  Research has established through modelling that the Highlands of Scotland could support a population of about 400 lynx, with a further 50 in the Southern Uplands.  Formal estimates are not available for elsewhere but, based on habitat, it is likely that a similar number could be supported in England and Wales.  However, the likely extent and timeframe of spread into the wider landscape needs to be assessed, with careful consideration being given to likely conditions outside the release areas.
  1. The source population should be as similar as possible to the original native population. There are at least two lynx subspecies in Europe and molecular studies of British lynx are needed to establish their relationship with today’s extant populations. Any reintroduction should use appropriate source populations.
  1. Lynx reintroductions should not threaten the conservation status of other extant native species.  For example it has been suggested that lynx may kill Scottish wildcats, which are critically endangered in Britain.  One radio-tracking study, which investigated 617 kills, found a single case of wildcat predation (Jobin et al. 2000).  However it is also possible that the reintroduction of lynx may benefit Scottish wildcat conservation by reducing intra-guild completion with feral cats. This could happen if the more abundant feral cats are killed more frequently than wildcats, though we note that Jobin et al. (2000) recorded only a single case of domestic cat predation.  Further assessment, informed by research studies on established populations elsewhere in Europe, is urgently required.
  1. A long-term plan is needed for management of the future spread beyond re-introduction areas. This will need to include agreed aims and strategies for the conservation of, and — where needed — management of lynx populations in the wider landscape.
  1. Appropriate risk assessment and mitigation options must be developed.  These should identify the range of potential conflicts, outline effective mitigation and resolution options and include adaptive management plans if the reintroduction does not achieve the intended goals. The most likely conflicts are likely to result from the predation of sheep and domestic pets, particularly when lynx colonise areas outside the original reintroduction zone.  It is possible for individual animals to habituate to using these animals as prey, creating localised problems.  For example, in the French Jura, predation was spatially patchy, being concentrated within very small areas and involving just a few individual lynx (Stahl et al. 2001; Stahl et al. 2002).  Most (68%) confirmed or probable killing incidents involved single sheep (18% involved two sheep) and attacks were mostly on lambs and sub-adults. A minority of flocks (10–23%) was attacked, and three-quarters of these were attacked once or twice a year. At the regional level, annual sheep losses to lynx were 0·14–0·59% of the total number of sheep. In some studies attack rates have been related to the population density of wild and/or and domestic prey, but the relationships are not straightforward and can either be positive, negative or neutral (Breitenmoser & Haller, 1993; Stahl et al. 2001; Gervasi et al. 2014), emphasising the importance of continuing monitoring and adaptive management post-release.

Mitigation options need to be practical if they are to be implemented successfully and include both quantification of the costs associated with mitigation actions and establishment of a funding mechanism to meet such costs. This could include compensation schemes, which can be effective in helping support reintroduction programmes but may be open to potential false or over-claiming. Other mitigations could include methods for minimising predation of livestock such selective removal of ‘problem’ lynx, or, if practical, overnight housing of stock or use of guard dogs.

  1. Monitoring must be undertaken to assess the status of the populations and other wild animals before and after the reintroduction.  For example, some deer populations may be locally diminished (particularly roe deer) because of direct predation and avoidance of areas where lynx are present. This has the potential to lead to recovery of over-browsed vegetation, and a reduction in damage to forestry and agriculture.  However, it is also possible that there could be impacts on other predators, such as foxes, with unknown consequences for local ecosystems.
  1. Stakeholder engagement is required at the outset and throughout any reintroduction programme to ensure the reintroduction is successful and sustainable.Public support for any reintroduction is essential, especially where the species is to be reintroduced. The reasons for reintroduction and the expected outcomes should be clear for all parties.  Therefore extensive, and perhaps long-term, dialogue with all stakeholders is a necessity.  Without clear support, especially amongst those likely to be in conflict with lynx, the prospect of success will be much lower.   

The Mammal Society’s Position

The Mammal Society believes that the reintroduction of lynx to Britain is a viable proposition that conforms to the requirements of the Habitats Directive.  Provided the factors described above are taken into consideration, the Society considers that restoration of this top predator could benefit the restoration and function of habitats and ecosystems in Britain.  The aim of any such introduction should be a self-sustaining population that can be managed effectively in the event of conflicts, but which allows the lynx to become a functional part of British ecosystems.

Relevant Literature

Basille, M., Herfindal, I., Santin-Janin, H., Linnell, J. D., Odden, J., Andersen, R., Høgda, K. A., and Gaillard, J. M. (2009). What shapes Eurasian lynx distribution in human dominated landscapes: selecting prey or avoiding people? Ecography32: 683-691.

Bath, A. J., Olszanska, A., and Okarma, H. (2009). From a human dimensions perspective, the unknown large carnivore: Public attitudes toward Eurasian lynx in Poland. Human Dimensions of Wildlife13: 31-46.

Blake, D. (2009). The return of large carnivores to Britain – the hunters and the hunted. ECOS29: 25-32.

Bouyer, Y., Gervasi, V., Poncin, P., Beudels-Jamar, R. C., Odden, J., and Linnell, J. D. C. (2015). Tolerance to anthropogenic disturbance by a large carnivore: the case of Eurasian lynx in south-eastern Norway. Animal Conservation18: 271-278.

Breitenmoser, U., Haller, H. (1993). Patterns of predation by reintroduced European lynx in the Swiss Alps. The Journal of Wildlife Management. 1:135-144.

Gervasi V., Nilsen, E.B., Odden, J., Bouyer, Y., Linnell, J.D. (2014) The spatio‐temporal distribution of wild and domestic ungulates modulates lynx kill rates in a multi‐use landscape. Journal of Zoology292: 175-183.

Gray, J., Brockington, J., Hayward, M. and Walmsley (2016).  How the proposed reintroduction of Eurasian lynx to Britain illustrates competing values and contrasting views associated with humans and the natural world. Country-Sidehttp://www.harmonywithnatureun.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/Papers/Lynx_reintroduction.pdf.  Accessed 26/01/2018.

Hetherington DA, Lord TC, Jacobi RM. (2006). New evidence for the occurrence of Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) in medieval Britain. Journal of Quaternary Science21:3-8.

Hetherington, D. A. and Gorman, M. L. (2007). Using prey densities to estimate the potential size of reintroduced populations of Eurasian lynx. Biological Conservation 137: 37-44.

Hetherington, D. A., Lord, T. C., and Jacobi, R. M. (2006). New evidence for the occurrence of Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) in medieval Britain. Journal of Quaternary Science 21:3-8.

Hetherington, D. A., Miller, D. R., MacLeod, C. D., and Gorman, M. L. (2008). A potential habitat network for the Eurasian Lynx Lynx lynx in Scotland. Mammal Review 38: 285-303.

Jobin, A., Molinari, P., and Breitenmoser, U. (2000). Prey spectrum, prey preference and consumption rates of Eurasian lynx in the Swiss Jura Mountains. Acta Theriologica45: 243-252

Kitchener, A.C. and Bonsall, C. (1997). AMS radiocarbon dates for some extinct Scottish mammals. Quaternary Newsletter no. 83: 1–11.

Kitchener AC (2001) Two tales of two kitties: Restoring the wildcat, Felis silvestris, and the lynx, Lynx lynx, to Britain. In: Bowen, C.P. (ed.). The return of the native – the reintroduction of native species back into their natural habitat, pp. 24–27. People’s Trust for Endangered Species /Mammal Trust UK: London.

Linnell, J.D., Breitenmoser, U., Breitenmoser-Würsten, C., Odden, J., and von Arx, M. (2009). Recovery of Eurasian lynx in Europe: What part has reintroduction played? In:Hayward, M.W and Somers, M. J. (eds.). The reintroduction of top-order predators, pp. 72-91. Oxford: Blackwell.

Milner, J.M. and Irvine, R.J. (2015). The potential for reintroduction of Eurasian lynx to Great Britain: A summary of the evidence. British Deer Society Commissioned Report.

Odden, J., Nilsen, E. B., and Linnell, J. D. C. (2013). Density of wild prey modulates lynx kill rates on free-ranging domestic sheep. PLoS ONE8: e79261.

Stahl, P., Vandel, J.M., Herrenschmidt, V. and Migot, P. (2001) Predation on livestock by an expanding reintroduced lynx population: long-term trend and spatial variability. Journal of Applied Ecology, 38: 674–687.

Stahl, P., Vandel, J.M., Ruette, S., Coat, L., Coat, Y., Balestra, L. (2002). Factors affecting lynx predation on sheep in the French Jura. Journal of Applied Ecology39:204-216.

Yalden, D.W. (1999). The history of British mammals. Poyser: London

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The Broccoli tree

 

 

Remember the Broccoli Tree and its eventual fate?

For the past few years, Patrik Svedberg has been taking photos of a beautiful Swedish tree he dubbed The Broccoli Tree. In a short time, the tree gained a healthy following on Instagram, becoming both a tourist attraction and an online celebrity of sorts. (I posted about tree two years ago.) Yesterday, Svedberg posted a sad update: someone had vandalized the tree by sawing through one of the limbs.

Very soon after, it was decided by some authority that the vandalism meant the entire tree had to come down. A work crew arrived and now it’s gone.

In a short video, John Green shares his perspective on the loss of the tree and the meaning of sharing with others in the age of social media.

To share something is to risk losing it, especially in a world where sharing occurs at tremendous scale and where everyone seems to want to be noticed, even if only for cutting down a beloved tree. […] And the truth is, if we horde and hide what we love, we can still lose it. Only then, we’re alone in the loss.

Leopard Immobilisation by the IZW Namibia

We are happy to share a video edited by Jackson Engel and Bowen Parrish who had the opportunity to attend one of the leopard immobilisations that our team did on the Farm Krumhuk in April 2015.
The female L065 estimated to be 6 years old and weighting 36 kg was fitted with a GPS collar within the framework of our leopard research project in the Auas Oanob Conservancy, in central Namibia.

Human-Wolf conflict in Germany

I have found a very interesting article written in the website of the European Wilderness Society on the Wolf in Germany. Access to original source here.

The story is not new to those who work with large carnivores in human dominated environments. Some part of the society asks to protect this icon of the wilderness while others are lobbying for legal killing.

The previous research done on this topic shows that legal killing will not help to diminish ilegal killing of the species nor reduce the livestock losses. Where there are large carnivores and free-ranging unprotected livestock, there will be always a conflict. We must assume it. The goals (everybody´s goal) should be to diminish such losses while keeping viable populations of these carnivore that are healthy and populated enough to have their role in the ecosystem.

In the link provided at the beginning of this article, you can find valuable information on the insignificant economic losses that wolves produce. The wolf’s damage counts thus for 0,08% of the total wildlife-damage in Germany.

 

1

There are currently 70 confirmed wolf packs in Germany. Aproximately the same amount than Galicia, in the north west of Spain with a size of 2/3 of Switzerland.
maximale-anzahl-der-woelfe-in-deutschland-

Livestock protection is the long term solution

Killing of wolves has counterproductive effects as it breaks the pack structure. The flow of experience and  learning process from the elders to the younger animals is one of the most important factors in order that wolves learn how to hunt wild animals like wild boar, red deer or roe deer. If the elders are killed, the young ones will seek easier prey like livestock. Killing wolves does increase livestock damage and human wild life conflict.

The most effective solution is to protect the livestock using electric fences, guarding dogs and other methods to dissuade wolves approaching the livestock.

Have a look at the website of the European Wilderness Society to find out more on the Wolf in Germany.

Source article can be found here and here

Some essentials on coexisting with carnivores

Coexisting with carnivores can be a challenge, but their value makes it worthwhile, as Professor John Vucetich and Professor David Macdonald explain

The well-being of many human communities depends on healthy forests and grasslands. Those ecosystems can be degraded by over-browsing and over-grazing by large herbivores – moose, deer, elk, gazelles and so forth. That overconsumption is far less likely to occur when large herbivores are limited by healthy populations of large carnivore – wolves, lions, lynx, wolverine, bears, etc. Moreover, ecosystems with healthy populations of large carnivores tend to have greater levels of overall biodiversity. In a nutshell, and at risk of glossing over details, the conservation community has concluded that large carnivores have great ecological value.

Nevertheless, human communities often find it difficult to live near populations of large carnivores. Difficulties arise in three ways. First, carnivores kill domestic livestock, which provides for the well-being of some humans. Carnivores do not kill for malice; they do so because their well-being depends on it. Moreover, carnivores would naturally prey on wild animals. In many cases, however, the wild prey have been displaced by domestic livestock.

Second, carnivores kill wild prey that is also hunted by humans for subsistence or recreation. In this way, large carnivores are treated as competition to be eliminated.

Third, some species of large carnivores, on some occasions, threaten and take human lives. Important examples include human-eating lions in portions of Africa and human-eating tigers in portions of south Asia.

While these three elements of conflict are real, they are also frequently and grossly exaggerated. In the United States, for example, the impacts of wolves on livestock and hunting are very small and wolves do not pose a threat to human safety1. Yet, these concerns are an important fuel for wolf persecution.

Under threat

Genuine and perceived threats lead to humans killing carnivores at high rates through illegal poaching and legal culling and hunting. The result of all this killing is that two-thirds of the world’s carnivore species are threatened with extinction and most places do not have their native compliment of carnivores. The end point of treating this conflict – as humanity has thus far – is irreversible extinction and gross mistreatment of carnivores that manage to persist. An important element of this conflict concerns the received and oft-repeated motivation offered for why carnivores should be treated better: because they are ultimately of value to humans. The genuine wellbeing of humans is an important reason to conserve, but it is not the only one and alone it is inadequate.

European colonists and their descendants drove various large carnivores to extinction over a substantial portion of eastern North America. Britain drove its large carnivores – wolves, lynx and brown bears – to extinction centuries ago. It is difficult to mount a case that the wellbeing of those humans is worse as a result of those extinctions. When an object (think, carnivores) is valued only for its utility, its utility may go unrecognised, be outweighed by costs of maintaining it, or replaced by a substitute. This is not a denial of carnivores’ utility, but an acknowledgement of the risk in valuing something only for its utility. As such, nature’s utility is an (important, but) insufficient motivation for conservation.

Conserving carnivores

What if, carnivores are valuable, not only for advancing human wellbeing but also because they have a value in their own right? What if, we have an obligation to treat carnivores fairly and with at least some concern for their wellbeing? The response to those questions begins with the supposition that humans possess this kind of value and are entitled to this kind of treatment because we have interests (e.g., to avoid pain and to flourish). It follows that any entity with such interests would also possess this kind of value. Because all vertebrate organisms possess those interests, they also possess this kind of value and deserve this kind of treatment. The force and universality of this reasoning are indicated by the principle of ethical consistency, i.e., treat others as you would consent to be treated in the same position. Most human cultures are undergirded by some variant of this principle (e.g., golden rule). This intrinsic value of at least some non-human portions of nature is widely acknowledged – reflected by sociological evidence and many instances of laws and policies. Ethicists encapsulate these ideas by saying that carnivores (and many other forms of life) possess intrinsic value2.

Future success in carnivore conservation will depend, in part, on better understanding ideas that will foster effective and fair mitigation and adjudication of conflict, especially:

  • The extent to which conservation can be achieved through protected areas and land-sparing, opposed to land sharing3;
  • Mechanisms of socioeconomic behaviour that adversely impact carnivores. Some elements may be underappreciated (e.g., wealth inequality,4) and other elements may be favourable to conservation (e.g., tendency to increasingly embrace nature’s intrinsic value with increasing economic development,5);
  • How to subsidise coexistence by compensating those adversely affected by living with carnivores. The challenge is tailoring compensation in ways that are fair and effective, yet do not foster, e.g., perverse incentives, additionality, or leakage6;
  • How to best juxtapose the values of conservation and social justice in a manner that genuinely honours the intrinsic value of carnivores without being misanthropic7.

Conservation is no longer limited by ecological knowledge about carnivores’ ecological value or needs. Increasingly, the limiting factor is an effective application of knowledge arising from the synthesis of social sciences, social justice and conservation.

1 Vucetich (2016), Oversight Hearing, United States House Of Representatives. https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CHRG-114hhrg21616/pdf/CHRG-114hhrg21616.pdf

2 Vucetich et al. (2015), Conserv Biol, https://doi.org/10.1111/cobi.12464

3 Fischer et al. (2014), Conserv Biol, https://doi.org/10.1111/conl.12084

4 Holland et al. (2009), Conserv. Biol., https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1523-1739.2009.01207.x

5 Bruskotter, Vucetich, et al. (2017), BioScience, https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/bix049

6 Dickman, Macdonald, & Macdonald (2011), Proc Natl Acad Sci, USA. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1012972108

7 Vucetich & Nelson (2010), BioScience,https://doi.org/10.1525/bio.2010.60.7.9

 

Professor John A. Vucetich

School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science

Michigan Technological University

javuceti@mtu.edu

 

Professor David W. Macdonald

Wildlife Conservation Research Unit

The Recanati-Kaplan Centre, Department of Zoology

University of Oxford

david.macdonald@zoo.ox.ac.uk

 

Source: http://www.adjacentopenaccess.org/farming-environment-marine-sustainable-news/essentials-coexisting-carnivores/35223/

Blood does not buy goodwill

In the paper published Guillaume Chapron and Adrian treves in Proceedings B of the Royal Society (Blood does not buy goodwill: allowing culling increases poaching of a large carnivore), the authors looked at whether removing protection for large carnivores would decrease illegal hunting. This idea is supported by many governments. Does it work as expected? Find out by watching this video and by reading the paper available at http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/283/1830/20152939.

Abstract of the paper:

Quantifying environmental crime and the effectiveness of policy interventions is difficult because perpetrators typically conceal evidence. To prevent illegal uses of natural resources, such as poaching endangered species, governments have advocated granting policy flexibility to local authorities by liberalizing culling or hunting of large carnivores. We present the first quantitative evaluation of the hypothesis that liberalizing culling will reduce poaching and improve population status of an endangered carnivore. We show that allowing wolf (Canis lupus) culling was substantially more likely to increase poaching than reduce it. Replicated, quasi-experimental changes in wolf policies in Wisconsin and Michigan, USA, revealed that a repeated policy signal to allow state culling triggered repeated slowdowns in wolf population growth, irrespective of the policy implementation measured as the number of wolves killed. The most likely explanation for these slowdowns was poaching and alternative explanations found no support. When the government kills a protected species, the perceived value of each individual of that species may decline; so liberalizing wolf culling may have sent a negative message about the value of wolves or acceptability of poaching. Our results suggest that granting management flexibility for endangered species to address illegal behaviour may instead promote such behaviour.

Video: Monitoring of Scavenger Activity in Slovenia

We thought interesting to share this video recorded by Damjan Juznic:
Monitoring of Scavenger Activity in Slovenia

Carnivores and Scavengers are not well accepted in rural comunities although they play an important role in the ecosystem and their presence benefits humans through ecosystem services. This video shows the variety of animals that can feed on carrion. Enjoy it and share!