Could these 6 species be reintroduced to Norfolk?
- Credit: Jan Rozehnal/Getty Images/iStockphoto
Could wolves, grey whales and bison return one day to our countryside?
Rewilding our natural areas has become a hot topic lately, and is seen by some as a solution to the decline of wildlife populations across the country.
Reintroducing lost species is not without controversy. Some argue that we should focus on supporting the British wildlife that already needs help recovering, and others fear that new species could threaten native populations.
For example, farmland birds such as the corn bunting, tree sparrow and grey partridge have all seen massive declines.
While wolves and bison may be an outlandish idea, reintroducing species can be beneficial for native wildlife if managed correctly.
Last month Norfolk Wildlife Trust successfully released the northern frog to Thompson Common, bringing the rare frog back from extinction in the UK. But what other lost species could be returned?
Here are six species that could be reintroduced in Norfolk, as suggested by Bob Morgan from the Norfolk Wildlife Trust.
1. Pine Martens
The pine marten used to be found throughout British woodlands until persecution by 19th century gamekeepers saw numbers demise.
A small number can still be found in the wild Caledonian forests of Scotland and they have started to appear in Northern England.
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In Ireland, their resurgence has rolled back the spread of grey squirrels, helping the survival of the native red squirrel populations.
2. European Beaver
Beavers once lived along every river in Britain but were driven to extinction due to its valuable fur.
Small numbers have been reintroduced to parts of Devon and Scotland, and there has also been a controlled reintroduction of a small number in north-west Norfolk.
The return of beavers could have many benefits for our region’s waterways. According to Mr Morgan: “Beavers are important drivers of wetland creation, they reduce down river flooding, restore stream beds and provide pools for other species.
"European beavers don't build huge lodges or dam rivers as American beavers do, so are less conspicuous.”
The Eurasian lynx is widespread across Europe but was removed from British soil some 1,000 years ago.
The lynx lives in woodland areas and rarely ventures into open countryside. Their reintroduction could help manage deer populations in the county.
Mr Morgan said: “There is a huge deer population in Norfolk, and this is having a detrimental effect on our woodland flora.
"Lynx are specialist deer hunters and they would not only reduce deer numbers but create ‘no go zones’ for deer, allowing sensitive woodland plants to thrive.”
4. Large Copper Butterfly
The large copper butterfly was once common on the Norfolk Broads and Fens, but due to habitat loss and people collecting specimens, it eventually disappeared.
It was last seen in Cambridgeshire, where an isolated population managed to hang on before unfortunately dying out.
Previous attempts to reintroduce the butterfly have failed, but there could be more hope of success today.
“The caterpillars’ food plant, water dock, is common in the Norfolk Broads and with the recent improvements to many of its favoured habitats, a fresh attempt at re-introduction may be a possibility," Mr Morgan said.
5. Wild Boar
The wild boar has managed to establish itself in several areas in Britain, following escapees from farms.
They are important “ecological engineers” and can help increase the diversity of plants that grow in woodland through grubbing in the woodland floor.
Mr Morgan said: “They dig up bracken and nettle rhizomes, allowing tree seedlings to rise through what would otherwise be an impenetrable mat. Their wallows are a useful habitat for water-loving plants, insects and amphibians.”
6. The Great Bustard
Last bred in Britain in 1832, the great bustard is a massive, beautiful bird that used to live around the Norfolk Brecklands.
These birds have successfully been reintroduced to Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, and could be a strong contender for species that could return to Norfolk.
In 2009, the first wild great bustard was hatched on British soil for 177 years.