The Last Word
Into the Wild
A U.K. specialty insurer is trying to alleviate the concerns of sheep farmers who are concerned about a push to reintroduce the extinct lynx in England and Scotland.
- Lori Chordas
- May 2019
More than 1,300 years ago, deforestation and poaching led the Eurasian lynx into extinction. But soon the forest-dwelling wild cat may once again be roaming U.K. forests thanks to a push by a British conservation organization.
U.K. sheep farmers, however, are concerned about that effort, fearing the lynx will prey on their flocks.
Ark Specialty Programs in London is hoping to alleviate those concerns with the creation of a unique insurance-based compensation scheme for losses to sheep injured or killed during a lynx attack.
Later this year, Lynx UK Trust, which was founded in 2014 by a group of conservationists and scientists, will file its second license application with Natural England, the public body responsible for the country's wildlife licensing, to conduct a scientific trial to rewild the lynx.
Lynx UK Trust submitted its initial license proposal in 2015. It was the first-ever application made in the U.K. for the species to be reintroduced, said Dr. Paul O'Donoghue, Lynx UK Trust's chief scientific adviser. Last year, U.K. environmental secretary Michael Gove rejected the proposal, raising concerns about stakeholder support and exit strategies.
Lynx UK Trust is hoping to reintroduce the lynx in England and Scotland to help trim the overpopulation of deer in the nations and restore a natural balance in the British countryside.
As part of its trial program, the conservationist group plans to reintroduce six lynx—two males and four females—into three privately owned, unfenced estates in Kielder Forest in Northumberland.
Eurasian lynx, the largest of the four lynx species, pose little threat to humans. However, they prey on rabbits, red foxes and other small to fairly large-size mammals and birds. That's sending up a red flag to the National Sheep Association and its members who are concerned about the potential threat to their livestock.
O'Donoghue casts aside those fears. “Lynx have a negligible impact on sheep populations. In fact, based on research, it's expected that each of the six lynx in the trial could take up to only 0.4 sheep each year,” he said.
Lynx UK Trust is partnering with Ark Specialty to offer sheep farmers insurance that will compensate for those losses. Ark Specialty is a division of Ark Syndicate 4020 operating within Lloyd's. Last year, Ark's Re Wilding Program policy provided cover for the release of 24 lions in Mozambique. The policy offered compensation for injury or death to indigenous people, said Richard Bryant, a senior underwriter at Ark Syndicate.
Its newest policy to U.K. sheep farmers provides above-market value for sheep that are injured or killed by a lynx during the trial period. The insurance also extends to attacks on pets and humans. Claims will be investigated to determine the method of killing and time of death, aided by state-of-the-art GPS collars “that our lynx will wear so we'll know exactly where they are at all times,” O'Donoghue said.
“The next step in our effort is to hopefully get the license approved and then we can bring in the first lynx. We'll then present the data we collect from the trial, including the effects of the animals on U.K.'s social, economic and natural environments, to the government for full range adoption,” he said.