Leading article: Animal crackers

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The Independent Online

The elks have arrived. The wild boars are nicely settled in. The wolves, brown bears, beavers and lynxes are due to follow. Paul Lister's Highlands menagerie is beginning to taking shape.

Not everyone is best pleased. Some feel that the Scottish multimillionaire's condemnation of mankind's rapacious approach to the natural world sits a little uneasily with the fact that he is planning to charge people to visit the estate. Others point out that these beasts, micro-chipped and hemmed in by electric fences, will not be quite as "wild" as they might be.

But, for many of us, the sheer visceral pleasure of seeing these charismatic animals return to a habitat they have not graced in hundreds, in some cases thousands, of years, will outweigh such objections. And if Mr Lister's wilderness reserve can make money, where is the harm? The UK's tourist industry needs such entrepreneurialism.

It should also be pointed out that this is not just about animals. Mr Lister has already set about reintroducing Caledonian pine, juniper, hazel and round birch trees to his estate. This seems designed to be a serious ecological project, rather than a frivolous 50,000-acre safari park for the wealthy.

One wonders whether a certain brash American businessman, having witnessed Mr Lister's success with the Scottish planning authorities, might sense an opportunity here. True, the prospect of sharing the fairway with wolves and bears would probably put off all but the most intrepid of golfers. It might attract the odd Tiger, though ...