Tag Archives: Capercaillie


A short video from Dr Keith Skene, PHD. An expert in evolutionary ecology and developmental biology,  Dr Skene takes a very unexpected position with rewilding and reintroduction projects. We have made contact with him and hope to have   a more in-depth interview with him shortly to explore his ideas in greater detail.

The author of four books and over thirty peer-reviewed journal articles, his newest offering is being debated at the US Congress Conference on Sustainability in Washington this week. Dr Skene works with a number of business schools and teaches at universities across Europe, including MENDELU in Brno. He is well known and respected for his collaborative works and as an expert speaker in his field.

Previously, 13 years at the prestigious College of Life Sciences in Dundee, where he carried out extensive field research in an impressive array of countries “from Kenya to the Carpathian mountains, from the Scottish highlands to southwest Australia and from Vietnam to Trinidad”,  he was appointed as Convenor of the Board of Environmental and Applied Biology in 2008. He then established the Biosphere Research Institute (www.biosri.org) in 2008, becoming its first director.



The Results Are In: Public Support For Lynx Re-Introduction.

Yesterday, Lynx UK announced the results of their public survey to assess the level of support for plans to re-introduce wild lynx around the UK.

The proposal has attracted significant public support, with 91% of the 9500 surveyed voting in favour of the proposed release of which 84% said they would like to see this happening within the next 12 months.

Potential release trial sites under consideration are Aberdeenshire, Cumbria, Galloway, Kielder, Norfolk and Wales. The trust hopes to release four to six lynx at each trial site.  Opposition comes primarily from the agricultural community, who fear the animals would threaten their livelihoods by predating on livestock.

This is what Lynx UK had to say on their facebook post yesterday:

The survey we launched just over a month ago is what we call a pro-active survey; people have to make an effort to do it so it gives you an idea of what people who feel strongly about reintroduction, positive or negative, think. We had about 9,500 responses to this, a really big number in terms of opinion polls.

Of course, it is not perfectly representative of the UK population and inevitably ends up weighted in certain ways because you can’t control who does it, however it turns out our data is unfairly weighted in a couple of interesting ways. Rural communities make up 20% of the UK, but 50% of our sample, and young people aged 18-35 make up about 25% of the UK and 50% of our sample. So, our figures are weighted towards those who will live alongside lynx, and those who will live with the long term effects of a reintroduction, two important groups of people.

Out of interest, we also ran a typical opinion poll (a “passive” sample) recording a representative survey of UK people; just over 1,000 people roughly matching age ranges and so forth of the UK population. The figures here recorded a very high “Don’t Know” response, so we filtered them out of the below numbers just to get some clarity of opinion.

Amazingly, the figures weighted towards rural communities and young people came out most positive, but the positivity overall has really stunned us; positive responses are above those recorded for beaver reintroductions in Scotland, and negative responses are a really long way below those recorded for beavers.

And with all that said, here’s some pro-active data; 91% back a trial reintroduction of lynx in the UK, 84% believe it should happen within the next 12 months. 

These charts are the intellectual property of Lynx UK. Permission pending.
These charts are the intellectual property of Lynx UK. Permission pending.

Rewilding the World – Monbiot’s Mission.

Author, journalist, political and environmental activist – George Monbiot wears many hats. A controversial figure, Monbiot has become the UK’s most vocal pioneer of the rewilding movement. His long standing column in The Guardian and his most recent book, Feral, are both well read and his eloquent and provocative style is well known for instigating debate and discussion .

Check out his Ted Talk on the subject of Rewilding and then let us know what you think:

Animal Conservation in Scotland.

Despite only being April, 2015 has already been an important year in Scottish Conservation. As the Knapdale beaver trials draw to a close and ministers begin deliberating the success of the programme, conservation group Lynx UK is also waiting for the outcome of their public consultation regarding the release of wild Lynx in the UK.

Scotland has a mixed history with wildlife re-introductions. Successes over the last 10 years include Red Kites, Northern Goshawk as well as Reindeer and based on early reports, Beaver are soon likely to be added to this list. Less successful, Scotland’s infamous Capercaillie population has decreased so rapidly that, despite significant investment in their protection, these iconic birds are facing extinction for the second time.

Ideally, the concept of returning an animal to its native environment should be fairly simple, however the world is a very different place today than it was 500 years ago. The relationship between humans and wildlife is more distant than ever. As a result, the possibility of returning large mammals to the Scottish countryside is fraught with complications and controversy. To ensure the safety, comfort and well-being of human and animal,   Its imperative that the correct foundations are in place. This means, that not only do we need to ensure the science and environmental factors are appropriately considered but that a sustained, consistent and measurable education process is undertaken to alleviate public concerns and provide accurate and practical advice for those likely to be affected by this change to their surroundings.

Currently there are a number of actors for and against these projects, and it could be argued that both sides are more concerned with dismissing their counterparts without consideration rather than making serious attempts to understand or appreciate the quality information that is generated as a result of a debate born of differing perspectives.  This may well be a result of what has become commonly known as confirmation bias – or the tendency to dismiss any information that does not align with your preferred agenda – or it may simply be, the result of major communication challenges between the motivations of the diverse stakeholder base involved. Whatever the cause, the time has come for everyone to stop talking and start listening when it comes to rewilding.

While I generally support the concept of returning animals to their native lands, I can not condone the release of animals into an environment that is sociologically unprepared to accept them, for this is little more than animal abuse as a result of human intervention. We need to understand the full implications, opportunities and benefits that these projects present to ensure that any actions we take are in the best interests of animals and the local community and to do that, we need everyone’s input. Here I give you a platform to ask your questions, state your concerns, have your say – and then listen to the responses you get back, weigh it up and respond until you are satisfied. Ultimately, animals are design to adapt to changing conditions and the primary threat to their successful re-establishment comes primarily from people and human intervention. Many of these animals are extinct as a result of our meddling in the past, we have an obligation to learn from our mistakes, take our time and do this right – or maybe not at all? I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Rewilding Interview: Peter Smith, Wildwood Trust.

This morning, I was privileged to undertake a skype interview, with Mr Peter Smith, Scientist, Conservationist  and CEO of the Wildwood Trust, a Kent based Charitable Organisation, which has been instrumental in many captive breeding and wildlife reintroduction projects including  the Konig Horse, Beaver and Wild Boar.

His passion for the subjects of rewilding and land reform is clearly evident and he raises some very interesting points which create a greater economic and political context into this complex subject. In order to ensure his perspective remains contextually intact,  I would like to share with you his perspective, as he sheds light on some of the challenges these projects face and providing deeper insight on the potential release of wild lynx in the UK.

Rewilding Interview: Peter Smith, Wildwood Trust (Audio)

As always, any thoughts, opinions and feedback are all greatly appreciated. Comment below or email: twilightexistence@gmail.com.

Scotland – a true wilderness?

Wild Scotland: Untamed, Feral and indescribably beautiful. These words immediately conjure images of majestic stags, silhouetted against craggy backdrops of heather-clad mountains; a sleepy land, alive with life, where the quiet stillness of the hills betrays losses long forgotten.An ancient land, steeped in natural heritage and history from which it has made its fame, where the legends of old mingle easily with the factual histories and the locals are happy to keep the magic alive through spellbinding tales of magic, war and bloodshed.

However pride is selective, and many argue that things that now represent Scotland, and indeed form part of the Scottish brand, are simply the result of agricultural industrialisation and have little links to the Scotland of old. Indeed, the pure waters of the rivers, integral to the salmon and whisky trade appear to be running low and many of the animals which roamed our hills in years gone by are missing, replaced by an abundance of deer, grouse pheasant and sheep, which in turn has had an impact on the countries once fabled forests and indigenous species.

However, as the industrial sector becomes ever more unpredictable, many are recognising a need to assess and protect the Scotland’s natural wealth and capitalise on the opportunities it presents in terms of tourism, biodiversity. environment and land management.  Recent years have shown a rise in the number of conservation projects committed to protecting Scotland’s endemic species and proposing a “rewilding” of its landscapes with species which long since extinct.  Some of these projects, such as the recent Beaver reintroduction at Knapdale have been hailed successful despite the challenges, while the results of others, such as Capercaillie conservation, have been questionable in terms  of cost and natural impact.

In March 2015, Lynx UK announced a public survey to assess public opinion of the reintroduction of Eurasian Lynx to the Scottish Highlands.  If approved this could pave the way for further large mammal re-introductions in the future such as wolves and bears, both of which have been absent from the UK wilds for well over 400 years. Due to the high level of controversy and sensationalism by the media in reporting these issues,  this blog aims to collate the science, evidence, information  and opinions from all stakeholders in order to present an unbiased platform that interested parties can use to evaluate the arguments for and against wildlife re-introductions in Scotland.