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Shooting of escaped lynx 'long overdue'.

Byline: Chris Kelsey Farming editor

Farming unions have said Ceredigion council was right to shoot the lynx that escaped from a mid Wales zoo last week and added that the incident revealed the danger of reintroducing large predators to the wild.

The Farmers' Union of Wales (FUW) said the authorities reacted appropriately after a specialist veterinary surgeon advised that the risk to public wellbeing had increased from moderate to severe.

The FUW said the escaped Eurasian lynx, called Lillith, was suspected of killing seven sheep within a few hundred yards of the town of Borth after escaping from Borth Wild Animal Kingdom - and had since strayed into a populated area.

An FUW spokesman said: "In an ideal world the lynx would have been quickly recaptured, but this did not happen. Given the risk to people and livestock, action to remove such a danger was long overdue. Had the animal not been allowed to escape in the first place, this situation would not have arisen and it seems a number of our members' livestock would not have been attacked and killed."

The union released a picture of seven sheep it said had been killed by the lynx, although Tracy Tweedy, from Borth's Animal Kingdom, said it was "highly unlikely" that the lynx was responsible for the deaths.

Research shows lynx kill 6,000-10,000 sheep a year in Norway, with some males killing seven each month, although the figure is much lower in countries where sheep are kept in enclosed pastures rather than being allowed to graze freely in forests as they are in Norway.

The union also said that attacks by lynx on humans have also been recorded, albeit rarely.

But the Lynx UK Trust said there were no records of attacks on humans by healthy, wild Eurasian lynx. It also says the animals have a very low impact on livestock, with lynx in Europe killing, on average, less than one sheep every two years.

The FUW spokesman said: "Despite being around the size of a sheepdog, an animal like this will routinely kill animals much bigger than itself, and the fact it was used to humans increased the risk it posed to the public. Some have already expressed their outrage over the shooting, but the public reaction would have been far greater had the animal attacked an adult or child."

Last week the the FUW wrote to the Welsh Government and the local Police Commissioner expressing concerns that the danger the animal posed was not being taken seriously.

The FUW also questioned plans to reintroduce lynx in the Kielder Forest region of Northumberland after it was announced in July that the Lynx UK Trust had applied to reintroduce six of the animals on a trial basis.

"It is no coincidence that the places targeted for campaigns to release lynxes are remote rural areas, and claims their impacts on livestock are negligible are not borne out by the evidence from the continent. If they are really as harmless as some people say, why aren't we considering their release in heavily populated areas such as Surrey?" NFU Cymru Livestock Board chairman Wyn Evans said: "The decision to euthanise the escaped lynx was taken following expert advice from Dyfed Powys Police, the Welsh Government and the Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales, over concerns for human safety.

"NFU Cymru maintains that the lynx, a large predator, should have been contained in whatever way deemed necessary to avoid any risk of harm to people and livestock.

"NFU Cymru is strongly opposed to plans to reintroduce the lynx to the wild in various areas of the UK. There is a real concern that the reintroduction of the lynx would cause risk to animal health and welfare and have an impact on livestock production and protected species, as well as domestic pets."

Ms Tweedy said she understood a post-mortem examination had been carried out on one of the dead sheep and that it was inconclusive, with the results of blood tests still awaited.

She pointed out that the sheep would have had to be killed in the first few hours after Lillith escaped and no other killings had been reported during the remaining fortnight the lynx had been free.

"If it turns out it is our lynx, then obviously [the farmer] will be fully compensated for that, but I can't see how it can be," she added.


Seven dead sheep which the FUW says were killed by an escaped lynx
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Nov 14, 2017
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