If you are planning to attend the Glastonbury Festival, you might be surprised to learn that you are sharing the land with one of the most elusive and fascinating predators in Europe: the eurasian lynx. These large cats, with their distinctive tufted ears and spotted coats, have a long and complex history in Britain, and are now the subject of a controversial reintroduction project. In this blog post, we will explore the ecology, behaviour and conservation of these magnificent animals, and how they are connected to the legendary music festival.
The History of Lynx in Britain
The eurasian lynx is the largest of the four lynx species, and can weigh up to 30 kg and measure up to 130 cm in length. They are adapted to a variety of habitats, from forests and mountains to grasslands and deserts, and prey mainly on ungulates such as deer, roe, chamois and ibex. They are solitary and territorial animals, with a low population density and a large home range.
Lynx were once widespread across Europe and Asia, but their numbers have declined drastically due to habitat loss, hunting and persecution. In Britain, they were extirpated by humans around 1,500 years ago, during the Anglo-Saxon period. However, there is evidence that they were still present in some parts of the country until the medieval times, and that they were revered by the Celts and the Druids as symbols of power and mystery.
The Glastonbury Festival site, located in Somerset, England, is one of the places where lynx might have roamed in the past. The festival is held on a farm that is part of the Glastonbury Abbey estate, which dates back to the 7th century. The abbey was one of the most important religious centres in medieval Britain, and was associated with many legends and myths, such as King Arthur, the Holy Grail and Joseph of Arimathea. The festival itself was founded in 1970 by Michael Eavis, a dairy farmer and music lover, who wanted to create a free event that celebrated peace, love and harmony. Since then, it has grown into one of the largest and most famous music festivals in the world, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.
The Reintroduction Project
In recent years, there has been a growing interest in restoring some of the native wildlife that has been lost from Britain, such as beavers, wolves and lynx. The Lynx UK Trust is a charity that aims to reintroduce eurasian lynx to selected sites across the country, including the Glastonbury Festival site. The trust claims that lynx would benefit the ecosystem by controlling deer populations, which have increased dramatically due to the absence of natural predators. This would reduce deer damage to forests and crops, enhance biodiversity and create opportunities for ecotourism and education.
The trust also argues that lynx would pose no threat to humans or livestock, as they are shy and avoid contact with people, and prefer wild prey over domestic animals. They have conducted extensive consultations with local communities, landowners, farmers and conservation groups, and have applied for a licence from Natural England to release six lynx into the wild for a five-year trial period. If successful, they hope to establish a viable population of around 400 lynx across Britain.
The Challenges and Controversies
However, not everyone is enthusiastic about the idea of bringing back lynx to Britain. Some farmers and hunters are concerned that lynx would kill their sheep and game animals, or compete with them for resources. Some conservationists are sceptical that lynx would survive in the fragmented and human-dominated landscapes of modern Britain, or that they would have enough prey to sustain them. Some people are also worried about the ethical and legal implications of reintroducing an apex predator that has been absent for so long.
The Lynx UK Trust has faced many challenges and delays in its efforts to obtain a licence for its project. It has had to overcome technical difficulties, legal disputes and public opposition. It has also had to deal with some unexpected incidents, such as the escape of a captive lynx named Flaviu from Dartmoor Zoo in 2016, which sparked a massive search operation involving helicopters, drones and sniffer dogs. Flaviu was eventually recaptured after three weeks on the run.
The Future of Lynx in Britain
The fate of the lynx reintroduction project is still uncertain at this point. The Lynx UK Trust is still waiting for a decision from Natural England on its licence application, which could take months or years. The project also depends on the cooperation and support of the local stakeholders and the general public, which is not guaranteed. The project also faces potential risks from climate change, disease, poaching and genetic isolation.
However, the project also has many supporters and advocates, who believe that lynx would enrich the natural and cultural heritage of Britain, and that they deserve a chance to return to their ancestral home. They also point to the successful examples of lynx reintroduction in other European countries, such as Switzerland, France and Germany, where lynx have coexisted peacefully with humans and have contributed to the conservation of their ecosystems.
The eurasian lynx is a remarkable animal that has captivated the imagination of many people throughout history. Whether or not they will once again roam the lands of Glastonbury Festival remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: they are a symbol of the wild and mysterious spirit that lies at the heart of this extraordinary event.