Conservationists point to the benefits: lynx prey mainly on roe deer, and will help to control their recent proliferation. Now protected and without natural predators, deer are munching their way through huge swathes of young trees and shoots, damaging the habitats of nesting birds and destabilising the balance of the forests.
Lynx will also join the ranks of more than a dozen native species reintroduced centuries after being driven to extinction in Britain by hunting, poaching, urbanisation and the hostility of farmers. Wild boar, capercaillie, beavers, goshawks, great bustards, ospreys, eagles, pine martens, otters and wolves have all been brought back to the countryside in recent years, or had their endangered populations boosted by careful, selective nurturing.
The “rewilding” movement links Britain back to its history, its medieval literature and the vanished landscape of our forebears. It enriches biodiversity in our overcrowded island. But it must be sensitive. Not all farmers are willing to expose their sheep to the predations of wolves and lynx. And wildlife is not fixed in some golden era. What thrived in Britain in 1451 may not thrive now, nor do we need to eradicate every plant and animal that has arrived on our shores since then. We should welcome the lynx, the boar and the crane, but need not uproot every rhododendron and send it back to Japan.