Moose on the loose in Scotland again

16th April 2008

Wolves and bears could be roaming free in Scotland within a few years, if a highland estate owner can fulfil his dream of restoring long-lost species to their original territory.

A pair of European elk (or moose) have already been released on Paul Lister’s 9,000-hectare Alladale Estate north of Inverness – the first time the animals have wandered freely in Scotland for 1,000 years. A BBC documentary screened tonight investigates the landowner’s controversial plans to re-introduce the so-called ‘bog five’ – grey wolves, brown bear, lynx, boar and bison – to their traditional territory.

Alladale has been making headlines since Lister – the son of MFI co-founder Noel Lister – bought the vast, remote estate in 2003 and announced plans to create a wilderness reserve. Drawing on experiences of the Shamwari and Sambona Game Reserves in South Africa, and the Carpathian Large Carnivore Project in Romania, Lister has invested massive sums building a luxury lodge for visitors and developing infrastructure for the reserve.

In December 2007, a 7km-long electric fence was completed to secure the moose, along with other reintroduced species including wild boar, within a 200-hectare enclosure. Lister hopes to expand the fenced area and introduce two packs of wolves – perhaps a dozen animals – which would survive by hunting the overabundant deer population.

He faces opposition from the EU, which favours the reintroduction of native species but argues that Alladale would effectively be a giant zoo – with predator and prey illegally housed together. However, Lister is adamant: "There's always going to be people out there that go: 'This isn't going to work. He's a crackpot. He's this, that and the other'. But as long as the majority of people can see what we are trying to achieve here, then it will happen...totally, it will happen." he said.

A Moose in the Glen, part of the BBC Natural World series, airs on BBC2 at 8pm tonight.

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