Jo Foo writes for the Wild Lives series
Hello all! Once again it’s been a crazy month and it doesn’t look like things are going to settle anytime soon for me so I’ll have to keep posting the best I can!
I’ve got a few blogs in the pipeline but today a post about the Wildwood Trust popped up on my radar and I had to investigate.
Large predators feature in the news on a fairly regular occurrence these days. At least every couple of months my Facebook notifications ping with tags and shares of the latest article to discuss the return of these animals to our small island.
The idea of reintroducing large predators to the UK as part of a larger rewilding conservation programme is not new news, but it’s often peddled that way with somewhat misleading headlines or posts suggesting that it is imminent. In this instance, the caption that the Wildwood Trust had raised cubs (pups!) to be released in the Scottish Highlands made me cringe.
I should take this moment to clarify that if you’ve not read any of my other blogs or my WCMT Fellowship Project of 2013 you might not know that I’m in favour of wolves coming back to the UK. I’m just very wary of how this is handled in the media.
When I clicked through to investigate this further I found what I suspected I would find, that the Wildwood Trust have hand-raised these wolves as part of a long-term reintroduction programme and that these wolves will be education ambassadors for their species. From what I can tell, they have no intention of taking these specific individuals and letting them loose in the Cairngorms.
But from the headline and the comment posted on Facebook, you could be forgiven for thinking that’s exactly what the plan was.
This kind of thing can be damaging to the movement in favour of reintroductions. It causes an emotional reaction from people at both ends of the spectrum and doesn’t give the full story. It’s really important we approach reintroductions with scientific integrity and avoid stirring up emotions with misleading captions. By looking to reintroductions like Yellowstone we can learn about the role the media plays in projects like these.
The Wildwood Trust are one of a number of organisations in the UK who are researching the possibility of bringing back large predators like wolves and lynx and they are making good progress. As George Hyde points out in the interview, people now ask when wolves are coming back, not if.
We have a long way to go before we get there. People need more information about the realistic implications large predators might have for them and their livelihoods. Laws to protect the animals in question would need to be put in place. Education about how to behave if you encounter one of these large wild predators would also need to be a key part of any strategy for a successful reintroduction. Doing anything before these things (and many other consultations!) happen is an alarming prospect for people both for and against the concept of returning these animals to the UK. Without these steps and proper consultation with stakeholders, a reintroduction is not likely to succeed,
So worry not! Wildwood Trust are not dropping off a pack of wolf pups in the highlands anytime soon. But they are taking great steps to get us there in the future and for me, this kind of progress is very exciting.