Two billionaire Scandinavians who own vast swathes of land in remote regions of Scotland are hoping to reintroduce wild lynx on their land.
Anders Holch Povlsen, 48, a Danish billionaire worth $6 billion who is thought to be the U.K.’s largest landowner, with an empire of some 220,000 acres, and Lisbet Rausing, a Tetra Pak heiress, who owns another 80,000 acres of the Scottish Highlands, are funding research aimed at reintroducing the predator, British newspaper The Times reports.
The lynx was wiped out in Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom by hunting and habitat loss around 500 years ago; however, populations survive in central and northern Europe.
Eurasian lynx can stand up to 27 inches high at the shoulder and weigh some 60 pounds, making them considerably larger than the Canada lynxes and bobcats seen in some North American regions.
They eat around five pounds of meat per day. Their purely carnivorous diet means that many sheep farmers, a powerful lobby in the region, are strongly opposed to their reintroduction. The National Farmers Union Scotland strongly opposed a previous proposal to reintroduce lynx at a forest near Loch Lomond, The Times reports.
However, evidence of public support for reintroducing lynx could lead regulatory body NatureScot to issue a license allowing for the dramatic rewilding plan. A new, year-long study costing $65,000 is being bankrolled by Povlsen and Rausing.
Advocates argue that farmers will be compensated for any livestock killed by lynx, as is often the case in other officially managed re-introductions of locally extinct species. They also say that lynx would help regenerate woodland by preying on roe deer which nibble on young trees, stunting their growth. One charity that supports the proposals to reintroduce lynx said they believed there were enough habitat and prey in Scotland to support about 500 lynx.
Peter Cairns, executive director of Scotland: The Big Picture, said the study aimed to “bypass the tribal leaders” of bodies such as NFU Scotland and speak to individual farmers.
He said lynx reintroduced in the Highlands would spread and could eventually cross into northern England.