FARMERS in the UK are worried about Romanian immigrants once again but, rather than chefs or cat-burglars, these intrepid adventurers are actually Eurasian lynxes being reintroduced to the British Isles after an absence of more than one thousand years.
Following the startling success of experimental rewilding programmes in Spain, the Lynx UK Trust will now begin a five-year pilot project which will see three male and three female lynxes released into the green British countryside.
Any offspring will be the first lynxes born in the UK for an estimated 1,300 years.
The southern Spanish provinces of Andalucia and Extremadura has been the site of a protracted last stand for the Iberian lynx for centuries, courtesy of a wine corking industry destroying their favoured oak forests.
In 2002 there were just 100 adults left of a population that had once covered vast swathes of Portugal, Spain and France as one of the peninsula’s most iconic predators.
After an intensive breeding programme, however, by the end of 2015, there were roughly 400 in the wild, spreading out into different regions and some even going AWOL having shed their electronic trackers.
These successes form the blueprint for the Lynx UK Trust which believes the island could easily support a population of several hundred Eurasian lynxes, a distinct species from the Iberian and also harmless to humans.
The group will soon apply for a licence to use a large, unfenced site in either Cumbria, Norfolk, Northumberland, or Argyll and Aberdeenshire. The six lynxes could theoretically be released as early as autumn, although it may take time to convince local communities that they pose no significant threat to livestock.
The relationship between humans and lynxes is not as complex and borderline spiritual as that between man and wolf but many of the same legacies of persecution and fear linger on.
The development of livestock farming by humans transformed the dynamic between humans and other apex predators, as we essentially tempted them large populations of docile cows, sheep and goats, the population of which we multiplied many times to fulfil our desires.
Whether we can find a way to live with lynxes, wolves and other creatures we haven’t stupefied over millennia will soon be found out.