Sunday, 12 November 2017

R.I.P Lillith the Lynx


This week a story in the news struck a little closer to home than they usually do and it directly related to the post I made on the 13th October about reintroducing the Lynx to the UK. I spent my formative university years at Aberystwyth, a place I have come to hold dear. As part of my 1st year Vertebrate Zoology class we were taken to what was then called Borth Animalarium. We were tasked with wandering around and inspecting the animals for physiological adaptations and comparing species evolutionary traits. I can’t say, that at the time, I thought much of the ‘zoo’. I m not against zoo’s per se, something I have discussed in the past but I do expect certain ethical standards to be upheld.
The animlarium, now called Borth Wild Animal Kingdom was in the news of late because their Eurasian Lynx, Lillith, escaped.  The 18-month-old animal escaped on the 29th October having jumped an electric fence. For those that don’t know Borth, it is a quiet out of the way holiday village on the west coast of Wales. It sits between the sea, sand dunes and Borth bog.

Lillith by a baited trap (from www.walesonline.co.uk)

Of course, a single Lynx escape is not much of a concern; a single animal is unlikely to present a major danger to the ecology of the area. They are not going to rapidly spread and cause an ecological disaster.  As I stated in the last post the Lynx was native to the UK and is well adapted to living in the wild spaces of the country.  The park owners attempted to recapture Lillith using baited cages but as anyone who has ever worked with animals will know that the best-laid plans will often go awry, and Lilith posed helpfully beside the cage but didn’t go in.

Eurasian Lynx are not a dangerous species, they live wild in Europe and as far as I could find no one has been killed by one or even injured. They are a shy and elusive species, I can recall a Natural World programme on the Iberian Lynx in which the lead researcher took years to actually see his first lynx in the flesh. Now, as a counterpoint to this Lillith was a captive animal, more used to human contact and not exactly wild, in fact, her lineage is almost certainly one from captive animals.

This story got me vexed when the news came that Lillith had strayed in to a caravan park near Aberystwyth and had been ‘humanely destroyed’.  The order to kill the animal came from Ceredigion County Council and a local marksman despatched her.  It is this ending that has caused me the most concern. The council stated that they ordered this action as they believed the lynx to have become a threat to public safety despite no records of anyone being harmed by the species. Tranquilising, which would have been more suitable was not even considered.


My concern comes from the reaction to this species as a danger. We as a people in the UK have become detached from wildlife and this unfamiliarity has allowed fear and ignorance to take hold. In this country, we have few wild animals that cause human harm and seem unable to coexist now with those that are. Take for instance Australia, this country has many creatures that can kill you but they have found a way to coexist because this is a way of life for them. We are detached and too fearful, I find this sad.