Wild cats could be reintroduced into the forests of Britain by the end of 2016 – with lynx roaming free for the first time in 1,300 years.
The Lynx Trust is seeking permission to run a five-year trial after identifying suitable forests in Northumberland, Norfolk, Cumbria, Aberdeenshire and Argyll & Bute.
Two of the sites would be the new homes of three male and three female lynx, and experts believe the project could bring considerable benefits for the UK’s economy and ecology.
Dr Paul O’Donoghue, who is involved in the trial, believes lynx could potentially save rural communities by generating tens of millions of pounds in revenue through eco-tourism.
He explained: “They promote forest regeneration. In the UK, forests are dying. There’s no regeneration of younger trees coming through because of the massive overpopulation of deer.
Lynx may be reintroduced into the wild in Scotland
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Video: Will Wild Cats Return To Forests?
“Lynx will help to both control and move deer around, which will promote forest regeneration.”
Currently, lynx are wild in certain parts of Europe such as Germany, but remain in captivity here.
The Lynx Trust says the animals pose no danger to humans – but to counter safety concerns, it says all animals will be fitted with a GPS collar.