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By Colin Cameron
The man behind controversial plans to bring a long-extinct cat to the forests of Kintyre said he was ‘very happy’ with an Inveraray consultation day.
Farmers, though, were less impressed.
Dr Paul O’Donoghue and his Lynx UK Trust hopes to bring lynx – a cat around the size of a German shepherd dog – to Kintyre as one of three trial sites in Scotland.
Dr O’Donoghue, the trust’s chief scientific advisor, was at Inveraray church hall for the public event on Tuesday March 5 after a late change from Tarbert.
The move, however, failed to stop a number of farmers from across Argyll, Kintyre included, travelling to voice concerns.
The Lynx Trust is looking for a licence to bring four female and two male lynx to Kintyre for a five-year trial. By the end of this period, Dr O’Donoghue estimates there could be up to 14 animals in the region.
Claiming 90 per cent public support, the Lynx Trust says there would be ‘zero risk’ to humans and that across Europe lynx kill on average 0.4 sheep per lynx per year. This predation level is dismissed by farmers who say this Europe-wide figure means little as it includes areas where no lynx are present.
Dr O’Donoghue said that roe deer make up around 95 per cent of the diet of a lynx, but farmers are concerned that control by forest managers has left the deer population particularly low, leaving sheep as an obvious alternative prey.
His Kintyre plans are at the ‘very early stages’, said Dr O’Donoghue, and the potential of ‘numerous sites’ was being assessed.
The farmers who came along were far from convinced by Dr O’Donoghue’s claims. One left the hall with fists clenched in frustration saying: ‘There’s no point in talking to that man. He is not listening to us.’
Dr O’Donoghue said he was ‘very happy with the way things went’. He continued: ‘It played out exactly as expected, with concerns being raised from the sheep farming community and support being given from other sectors.’
The chairman of NFU Scotland’s environment and land use committee is Oban farmer Angus MacFadyen. He told the Advertiser: ‘I’ve got great concerns about where this project may lead and what effect it could have on the environment as well as the local farming community.
‘As farmers, we are the people who look after most of the environment in this area and that includes ground-nesting birds, squirrels, wildcats and many other species. We’re trying to improve and maintain that and what we don’t need is an apex predator coming in and affecting it.’
Asked why the trust had changed venue for the event, Dr O’Donoghue replied: ‘Inveraray is a very accessible place and allowed good attendance, which was evidenced by the number of people there. Future events will be held further down the peninsula in due course.’
Dr O’Donoghue displayed a cardboard cut-out of a lynx at the meeting. a10LynxMeetingInveraray01