Most would also like to see lost bird species return
In recent years the “rewilding” movement has lobbied for the reintroduction of wolves, bears and other once-native species that are now extinct in the UK. Advocates say these long-absent fauna can benefit the ecosystem, reverse some of the effects of climate change and drive tourism. Opponents worry that they’ll spread disease, damage the farming industry and eat people.
New YouGov polling reveals overwhelming public support for the idea: four in five Brits (82%) want to see extinct species returned to the UK.
So which animals do the public want to bring back – and which would they prefer to leave in the past?
Wolves and lynxes and bears – oh my
Many in the rewilding movement have argued for the environmental benefits of reintroducing apex predators. While the less dangerous animals are more popular candidates for revival, a significant minority of Brits still want to see beasts of prey return to the ecosystem.
The most popular are wolves and lynxes: more than four in ten of those who want to reintroduce lost species (44% and 45% respectively) would like to see them brought back, amounting to over a third (36% for both) of the wider population. And while brown bears are perhaps the most dangerous animal on our list, three in ten (30%) of these supporters (and 24% of Brits overall) want them to return.
The bird is the word for most rewilding advocates
Most rewilding advocates want to see lost bird species reintroduced to the UK: around eight in ten (79%) of those who support rewilding want to bring back spoonbills, cranes, Dalmatian pelicans and other waders (amounting to 64% of the wider population), and a similar proportion (83% of those who support rewilding; 68% of the public) would be happy to see new populations of raptors such as goshawks, ospreys, and white-tailed eagles.
The successful existing examples of revived species such as the red kite (now so common in parts of the UK that some villagers consider it a dog-napping, barbecue-wrecking pest) could account for some of this popularity.
It may be a similar story with beavers, which already exist in small UK colonies, and which 62% of the public (and 76% of those who want to bring back missing species) would see reintroduced on a larger scale. Many even say they’d like once-native species which were wiped out thousands of years ago – such as bison (35% of rewilding advocates; 28% of the public) – to make a return.