Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Sunday 2 March 2008

Are all creatures to be welcomed in the Scottish Highlands?

My instinctive reaction would be to say, in general, yes. However, I think a basic look at some of the practicalities, and some of the implications, of introducing or re-introducing certain of these creatures into the Highlands, outside of a zoo or wildlife park setting is required.

These thoughts are prompted by an obscure (to me at least) organisation calling itself the "Wolves and Humans Foundation (formerly known as 'The Wolf Society of Great Britain')" which thinks that a time might come when their will be public support for the re-introduction of wolves, in the wild, into the Scottish Highlands:

"A time will come when media reports will generate a public demand for the government to look seriously at the reintroduction of wolves. We want to be at the table when that happens. What I have tried to organise before and still want to do is hold a major conference, maybe in Inverness, bringing together scientists and communities."

There's a lot to analyse in these three brief sentences! How will the media reports that Richard Morley, speaking for the organisation, evisages come about? What will cause the media to start writing about them? Will his organisation have any hand in trying to get such a debate started, or are we expected to believe that out of the mists of the Highlands will come forth a public clamour for this to be discussed seriously? I very much doubt the latter!

I think the idea of re-introducing wild animals, specially pack hunting animals such as wolves, back into the wild in Scotland is a very bad and dangerous idea; I have no doubt there might be a place for such creatures in some of the extensive areas of woodland and moor in the area, provided that the perimeters of such areas make exit from the area as difficult as possible. Now an anecdote about my personal experience of living in the Scottish Highlands, from about ten or so years ago, but which is replicated in many similar locations in the Highlands today.

Before I moved to live in Nairn I owned a house in an outlying part of Inverness (Culloden). When I first bought the house there were few other houses further up the hill and at one point the forest reached within 150 yards of my back garden, with only open rough heath, with a stream flowing down through it, between my property and the forest (no houses). It made a walk up into the forest a very easy procedure and it was delightful. Naturally enough some of the wildlife which made (and further up the hill still makes) its life there would from time to time move in the other direction, particularly during particularly harsh periods of the winter. It was quite common to see roe deer coming down out of the forest in the winter to graze in my front garden, for example (the back garden had a high fence enclosing it) or in early Spring some of the flowers which had started to push through; I believe also that some continued on north for the couple of miles to the shore of the Moray Firth, mainly though fields as there were few houses in between, for seaweed and salt (apparently they do this if they have certain mineral deficiencies). It was quite picturesque and it was nice to be able to peek out through the bedroom curtains and observe a deer quietly doing its own thing - on balance the damage done to my garden was small compared to the pleasure of being able to see a beautiful wild creature so close, perhaps six or seven feet from my nose.

How would I feel if, on the other hand, I were to peek through my curtains and observe a wolf padding through the bushes? How would a mother or father react when one day their young son or daughter, out in the garden playing, suddenly started to cry and then scream and then go ominously-quiet having been attacked and killed by a wolf? I bet that would generate a LOT of media interest of a very different nature than Mr Morley hopes to see! He should go and visit rural villages in parts of India or Africa to inquire of parents there how they react when their little ones occasionally form the basis of a meal for some of the local fauna!

I hope the Scottish Government/Executive has the good sense to tell the likes of Robert Morley to confine their activities to academic research and perhaps the creation of secure, if extensive, wildlife reserves. For a typically 'pithy' reaction to this story, read what the Devil's Kitchen has to say about it.

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