Monday, September 11, 2006

Police investigate plot to release wolves back into wild in Scotland


IT HAS been more than 250 years since Scots were haunted by the howl of a wolf in the wild, but it may soon become commonplace again if a group of determined activists, calling themselves the Wild Beasts Trust, gets its way. Leading figures in the organisation plan to release wolves and possibly up to six lynxes from a property in the Borders back into the the wild.

A police investigation is now under way after forces on both sides of the Border warned the Wild Beasts Trust it would be breaking the law, which strictly prohibits the random release of such animals into the countryside.

Animal-welfare groups criticised the plan as a hazardous stunt that would potentially cause suffering to the wolves and lynxes, as well as native species and livestock. They point out that when activists recently broke into pens and released wild boar in Devon, the animals caused thousands of pounds' worth of damage to crops and livestock.

However, the Wild Beasts Trust prides itself for acting on the margins of the law and said it remained determined to go through with its plan. Spokesman Peter Clarke, a former Tory candidate and landowner who lives near Selkirk, claimed yesterday the trust's activities were "doing more for Scottish natural heritage than the organisation of the same name".

He added: "What we're doing is bringing the beasties back." Mr Clarke said the "Little Red Riding Hood" folk memory of the animals being dangerous was a myth and that farmers should not worry about their livestock would be eaten. The group's ultimate goal is to restore a host of species to the UK - including bison, wild bear and walrus as well as lynxes and wolves - whether it receives official government approval or has to act illegally.

Northumbria Police, which said it is investigating the claims, and Lothian and Borders Police, confirmed yesterday the move would break several laws and warned the group it would be committing a serious offence. The rural affairs department of the Scottish Executive warned that releasing animals such as lynxes and wolves into the countryside would be illegal.

But Mr Clarke claimed the benefits of reintroducing various recently- extinct species would be numerous. Most accounts say the last wild wolf in Scotland was killed on the upper reaches of the River Findhorn in 1743. Mr Clarke said: "Everyone has Little Red Riding Hood in their mental furniture, but that is far from the reality. I have been to places on the continent where they have wolves, and a wolf would prefer to eat a hare, a rabbit or a vole than a sheep."

Colin Galbraith, of Scottish Natural Heritage, said: "Anyone releasing animals, such as the lynx, into the wild in Scotland without a licence would not only be breaking the law, but would also be demonstrating a lack of appreciation towards the animals' welfare."

Meanwhile, Richard Dodd, of the Countryside Alliance, said the plan by the Wild Beasts Trust was a "ludicrous idea". He went on: "Wolves are dangerous animals. What happens if they start killing children or farmers' livestock?"

Dr David Hetherington, who studied at Aberdeen University the potential benefits of reintroducing lynxes into the wild, said: "We need to look here at what has happened in Europe when reintroduction of lynxes have been carried out clandestinely. These exercises tend to fail because there has been no communication with local communities who inevitably feel threatened by the animals and consequently shoot or snare them."

  • Scotsman

    Post a Comment

    << Home