Extinct wildlife makes return

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The Independent Online

The sight of a moose wandering through the Scottish Highlands has not been seen for more than 1,000 years.

But a BBC documentary to be aired this week shows the largest member of the deer family back in its historic grazing grounds, as part of a controversial plan to reintroduce extinct wildlife to Britain.

The multimillion-pound scheme by a Scottish landowner Paul Lister aims to bring back long-vanished species to his 23,000 acre Alladale estate, north of Inverness.

And Mr Lister's ideas do not end with the moose - he has established a breeding population of wild boar and wants to reintroduce brown bear, lynx and wolves.

He is also planting 80,000 native trees including Caledonian pine, juniper, hazel and round birch to recreate the traditional forest which once covered the hills.

Wild boar, which exist in feral populations in a number of spots in the UK having escaped from farms and wildlife parks, are useful in conservation because their burrowing and foraging loosens the soil and aids the growth of trees.

Mr Lister said he wants to reintroduce large predators including brown bear and wolves to control the growing population of red deer and stop the damage they do through overgrazing.

But the plans are - unsurprisingly - controversial.

Farmers are concerned about the welfare of their livestock and are demanding the animals be fenced in, while ramblers say such fencing would destroy their right to roam.

And a fence around the estate would mean that under the law the park could just count as a giant zoo - which would mean it was illegal to put predators and prey together.

Despite the difficulties he faces, Mr Lister is determined to recreate the wilderness that his estate would once have been.

"There's always going to be people out there that go: 'This isn't going to work. He's a crackpot, this, that and the other'," he said.

"But as long as the majority of people can see what we are trying to achieve here, then it will happen," he insisted.

:: The Natural World documentary, A Moose In The Glen, will be shown on BBC2 on Wednesday, April 16, at 8pm.