Wolves and lynx will not be seen in the Scottish Highlands in the foreseeable future.
The species are not listed on the Alladale Estate’s latest application for a zoo licence which, according to the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, will only be for elk, European bison and Scottish Wildcat.
An earlier zoo licence bid by the estate, near Ardgay on the Easter Ross-Sutherland boundary, had included plans for three wolves – a proposal that would have meant fencing off a huge area of the estate and excluding walkers and climbers. This proved a huge bone of contention with the MCofS objecting on the grounds that the proposals were in conflict with the right to roam laws, which guarantee access to Scotland’s countryside.
But the council said it was unlikely to object to the zoo-licence application to Highland Council by Alladale Wilderness Estate, owned by a trust connected to the family of MFI furniture-chain heir Paul Lister. The zoo licence bid has been submitted after a planning application for pens on the estate to hold wildcat, boar and elk.
A statement by the MCofS said: “Despite all the talk in the media, the application is only for Scottish wildcat, elk and European bison.
“All the species are planned to be kept in small enclosures – constructed under the planning application if passed – and only a small number of individuals of each. The enclosure on the ridge is not part of the zoo licence application, and the enclosures are unlikely to have any hillwalker and climber implications even though access will not be possible to these small enclosures.
“MCofS has responded to the planning application and we will also be making comment on the zoo licence, although based on the current application and the fact that we can only make comment on aspects that impact upon mountaineers, we are unlikely to make a negative response.”
Mr Lister’s plans for the reintroduction of wolves into Scotland, and the provision of viewing for paying customers at the Highland estate, prompted a huge debate into the merits of ‘rewilding’ versus outdoor access to Scotland’s mountains and wildernesses.
The plans were the subject of a laudatory BBC documentary but walkers and mountaineers opposed the proposals from the start.