Call for the wolf: But could we bring back extinct species?

One of a pack of six wolves settles into its one acre enclosure at Palacerigg countryside Pprk, near Cumbernauld, September 1993.
One of a pack of six wolves settles into its one acre enclosure at Palacerigg countryside Pprk, near Cumbernauld, September 1993.

With proposals to reintroduce animals extinct in Scotland back into the Highlands in the news, a call has been made for the Borders to do the same.

Peter Clarke, who lives at Kirkhope near Selkirk, is a former environment policy ­advisor to the Thatcher government.

A pack of six wolves settles into its one acre enclosure at Palacerigg countryside Pprk, near Cumbernauld, September 1993.

A pack of six wolves settles into its one acre enclosure at Palacerigg countryside Pprk, near Cumbernauld, September 1993.

And he is also the spokesman for a group campaigning for the reintroduction of once native species such as wolves, bears, boars and lynx.

His controversial views – and those of others supportive of the aims of the Wild Beasts Trust – have been reported before, but were pushed back into the spotlight this week after Sutherland estate owner, Paul Lister, pledged to forge ahead with his long-standing plans to introduce bears and wolves to his land.

MFI furniture chain heir, Mr Lister, bought the remote Alladale Estate a decade ago, with the aim of creating a wilderness reserve.

Elk and wild boar were introduced on a trial basis to his 23,000-acres, but his proposals to reintroduce wolves and bears have run into serious opposition from farming and landowning organisations.

30/03/2012,  TSPL, Scotsman, Evening News. Brown Bears  arrive at the  Five Sisters Zoo, West Calder. Three brown bears rescued from a travelling circus arrived overnight from Belgium. Peggy, seen here was the first bear to be released into the holding sanctuary at the Five sisters zoo, part of new facilities including a large compound with water feature.  Pic Ian Rutherford

30/03/2012, TSPL, Scotsman, Evening News. Brown Bears arrive at the Five Sisters Zoo, West Calder. Three brown bears rescued from a travelling circus arrived overnight from Belgium. Peggy, seen here was the first bear to be released into the holding sanctuary at the Five sisters zoo, part of new facilities including a large compound with water feature. Pic Ian Rutherford

Once-extinct giant sea eagles have already been successfully reintroduced to Scotland, but Mr Lister told BBC Scotland this week he had much bigger subjects in mind: “We’re going to do a feasibility study on the big vision and the vision is to have a minimum area of 50,000 acres, have a fence around it, and bring back wolves and bears into that area.

“The presence of these large predators really changes the landscape for the benefit of nature.”

Mr Clarke says Mr Lister’s aims should be supported. “The wolf carries a certain folklore fear – Little Red Riding Hood and ferocious fanged beasts. The reality is much more modest,” he told The Southern.

“The prime case is they would rebalance nature by reducing the excess deer population.

12/02/2013,  TSPL, Scotsman, Evening News, Wild Boar feature, Gosford Bothy Farm Shop, East Lothian. Wild Boar.   Picture Ian Rutherford

12/02/2013, TSPL, Scotsman, Evening News, Wild Boar feature, Gosford Bothy Farm Shop, East Lothian. Wild Boar. Picture Ian Rutherford

“But I reckon SNH [Scottish Natural Heritage] and timid politicians will block Paul unless he can really secure miles of fencing.

“A far better candidate, because it carries no cultural baggage, is the lynx.” And Mr Clarke says the Borders would be ideal for a similar scheme.

He said: “I feel a few additions to our wild Borders would add romance to the landscape.

“We are competitors with the Highlands, but they have the greater reputation for remote beauty.

Photograph by  PHIL WILKINSON / TSPL copyright 'Tel +44 (0) 7740444373''SEA EAGLE RELEASE , FIFE.''TODAY , FOUR SEA EAGLES WERE RELEASED INTO THE FIFE COUNTRYSIDE , AS PART OF THE MOST RECENT REINTRODUCTION PROGRAMME OF SEA EAGLES INTO THE SCOTTISH LANDSCAPE.''PIC SHOWS THE EAGLES , LEAVING THE PURPOSE BUILT CAGES AND FLYING INTO THE OPEN AIR. ''CONTACT IS LOUISE SMITH , RSPB SCOTLAND , 07540121457

Photograph by PHIL WILKINSON / TSPL copyright 'Tel +44 (0) 7740444373''SEA EAGLE RELEASE , FIFE.''TODAY , FOUR SEA EAGLES WERE RELEASED INTO THE FIFE COUNTRYSIDE , AS PART OF THE MOST RECENT REINTRODUCTION PROGRAMME OF SEA EAGLES INTO THE SCOTTISH LANDSCAPE.''PIC SHOWS THE EAGLES , LEAVING THE PURPOSE BUILT CAGES AND FLYING INTO THE OPEN AIR. ''CONTACT IS LOUISE SMITH , RSPB SCOTLAND , 07540121457

“Bison roaming the Southern Upland Way would enhance the experience of the walk. As for bears, I’m all for them. Nobody goes in fear of them in those parts of Europe where they exist – the Pyrenees, Alps, Dolomites and further east.

“Bears would need more mixed woodland than we really have, but wolves and lynx would adapt well to the Southern Uplands.

“When in Sweden, the possibility of seeing a moose enhances all journeys. It could be same for us here.”