Its name means ‘light’ and it was so called because of the luminescence and reflectiveness of its golden eyes. The lynx is a native British animal… which may come as a surprise to some. It did to me, even though I have seen it portrayed in a number of medieval manuscripts.
I had thought it just one of those flights of fantasy the illustrators indulged in from time to time. Sadly, no. It was hunted out of existence in these isles over a thousand years ago because its fur was so prized for clothing. Consequently, the only place you will now see one in Britain is in a zoo.
Perhaps, though, not for long. The Lynx UK Trust hopes to reintroduce these beautiful and elusive creatures back the the wild this year. Our forests are under threat from an overpopulation of deer. They eat the new and low growth and have no natural predators left here. It is hoped that the reintroduction of the lynx would eventually help to redress that balance.
Concern about the reintroduction has been expressed by livestock owners, while the pro-lynx supporters make assurances of both minimal risk and compensation packages. Like the red kite, the lynx is seen as a threat to lambs and sheep. In the case of the kite, at least, hunted almost to extinction as vermin before their reintroduction, the fear was groundless. Although they will feed on the carcasses of sheep, their prey is mainly small mammals, small birds… and earthworms.
I can see both sides of the argument, particularly that of hard-hit sheep farmers, already facing the added uncertainty of the European economic situation, but on a purely personal level, even though I am never likely to see one of these shy and beautiful creatures in the wild, I would be glad to know they are there.