'It won't be easy' says the man who wants to bring bears and wolves back to Britain - Home News - UK - The Independent

'It won't be easy' says the man who wants to bring bears and wolves back to Britain

But Paul Lister, multi-millionaire heir to the MFI furniture fortune, won’t be deterred

Environment Editor

Paul Lister, the multi-millionaire heir to the MFI furniture fortune, is a firm believer that wolves and bears are far more effective culling machines than men with guns – and much better for nature.

After pondering the matter for years, he has recently taken a firm decision to press ahead with his plan to bring about 20 wolves and a dozen bears to Britain – for the first time since they were hunted to extinction 300 and 500 years ago, respectively.

And he hopes to have both beasts roaming around a 50,000 acre enclosure on his Alladale Wilderness Reserve in the Caledonian Forest in the North East of Scotland within three to five years.

Mr Lister believes that bringing these animals back after an absence of hundreds of years will help return the area to the way it was before mankind started controlling it.

“Wolves and bears are much better for the environment than a man with a rifle – nature manages far better by itself than with the input of man,” said Mr Lister, pointing to the experience of the Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, which reintroduced wolves 15 years ago, after a 70 year absence.

“Before the wolves returned the number of deers was soaring, despite human attempts to control them, because there had been nothing to hunt them,” said Mr Lister.

But that was just the beginning, he said. Not only did the wolves curb the deer population, they also changed the animals’ behaviour. The deers started avoiding certain areas of the park, such as valleys and gorges, where they were especially vulnerable to preying wolves and, as a result, aspen, willow and cottonwood trees sprang up.

The growing tree population attracted bears, which feasted on the rising berry-count. It also attracted birds and beavers, which eat trees and are like wolves, in that they are ecosystem engineers. The dams they built in the rivers provided a habitat for otters, ducks and muskrats. Furthermore, the trees helped to stabilise the banks, making the rivers more fixed in their course and reducing soil erosion.

So the wolves changed the physical geography of the banks as well as the ecosystem.

Mr Lister hopes to kick off a similar train of events – the process of letting nature restore the ecosystem is known as ‘re-wilding’ – on his Scottish estate which he bought in 2003 with a view to creating a wilderness reserve.

Mr Lister thinks using wolves for culls will be far better for nature Mr Lister thinks using wolves for culls will be far better for nature (AFP)
Since then, he hasn’t let the grass grow under his feet, planting 800,000 native trees, restoring peatland, releasing red squirrels into the area for the first time in decades and, more ambitiously, reintroducing elk to Britain three millennia after they died out. The elk experiment was partially successful – they were doing too much damage to the “relatively fragile forest” of his Sutherland estate, so he gave them to another wildlife park in Scotland, where they are thriving.

Now in his fifties, Mr Lister inherited a fortune from his father, who sold his share of the furniture chain he co-founded for £52m in 1985. He used his money to travel the world as a young man and spent a while working in the furniture business, before seeing the light after turning 40.

“Over 90 per cent of philanthropy is concerned with humanitarianism and just one per cent is concerned with nature and the environment. We need to stop thinking about ourselves and be more sympathetic to other creatures. If we don’t change the way we have been living we don’t stand much chance,” he said.

“I could build a giant windfarm, or commercial forest or large-scale hydro project, but I think it’s about time to do something different. It’s very clear that people love seeing nature and wildlife. I’m doing this for Scotland, for Britain, for nature.

“I don’t want to leave behind a massive windfarm or hydro plant. It’s ugly. It might be necessary, but it isn’t for me.

“My agenda is wildness, without which our lives would be diminished. That’s what gives us hope, life, longevity – not concrete jungles,” he said.

“It could have a huge economic impact as well. Instead of an area with a sleepy lodge that attracts a few visitors, you would have B&Bs all around and employ people in hospitality.”

Lister decries the rise of social media, which he says is making people, children especially, ever more disconnected from nature and says more needs to be done to harness its power to inspire the younger generation.

“We are at a precarious place in the global consumption crisis. But putting up videos on YouTube – for example two bears rubbing backs – you could get millions and millions of hits. If we can connect children to nature, that’s a great thing to do,” he said.

However, even he concedes that getting permission to house bears and wolves is not going to be easy.

Asked where he would source the beasts, he replied: “Scandinavia, particularly Sweden – that would be the perfect place. But that is the least of my problems. The biggest problem is proving to the British public and the Scottish government that this is the right thing to do.”

Lawyers say there could be legal challenges to Mr Lister’s plans. The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 gives everyone a right of responsible access over most of the land and inland water in Scotland, and this access could be obstructed by the proposal, which could also fall within the remit of zoo legislation.

Still, if anyone can get bears and wolves back to Britain, it will be Lister. He is in the process of appointing an agency to do a feasibility study, which will be followed by consultations with the government, environmental groups and local communities.

“We been bumbling along on this for a while and I’ve got sidetracked with other things, but I’m attacking this with renewed vigour now,” he said.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum
theatre

Returning to the stage after 20 years makes actress feel 'nauseous'

News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
property
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Student
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise
student

Top conservatoire offers ‘groundbreaking’ arts degree

Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Consultant - Soho - IT, Pharma, Public Sector

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35,000 first year: SThree: The SThree group i...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

SEN Teaching Assistant Runcorn

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week