Bernard Landgraf via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
Bernard Landgraf via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Conservationists Hope to Reintroduce Lynx to the UK

Bernard Landgraf via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
Bernard Landgraf via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

The nations of the United Kingdom have a lot going for them. They’ve got history, spectacular landscapes, and a unicorn mascot. But they haven’t got lynx, and some find that fact unacceptable. A group of feline conservation experts hope to bring the vanished cats back to the UK within the next ten years.

The Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) has piercing eyes and black-tufted ears. At about the size and weight of a large terrier, L. lynx is too small to be considered a big cat, but it’s certainly wild, hunting deer and other mid-size mammals for food. Lynx are solitary animals, which means that each adult needs its own territory. Many, many years ago, as human encroachment on lynx habitat increased throughout Europe, populations dwindled and some disappeared. The last time a lynx was seen in England was around the year 700. Which means, according to members of the Lynx UK Trust, it’s time to restore the missing lynx.

Image Credit: David Castor via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Species introduction programs have been around for a while, as people attempt to restore balance to damaged ecosystems. But with so many factors at play, early reintroduction efforts were more likely to fail than succeed. A lot of animals have died because well-meaning conservationists failed to account for unpredictable climate or new human threats.

Each failure is a lesson however, and today’s reintroduction programs are typically more sophisticated and more successful. About a dozen species, from bison to butterflies, have been re-established in the UK alone.

Members of the UK Lynx Trust have good reason to think a reintroduction program could work: It’s already working elsewhere. A captive breeding-and-release program in Spain has tripled lynx populations on the Iberian Peninsula. In 2014 and 2015, 124 captive-bred cats were released into the wild. Less than a year later, the lynx population numbered 400. Programs in Germany are off to a similarly promising start.

There are some hitches, of course. For one thing, the Spanish program focused on the Iberian lynx, not the Eurasian. The two species are quite similar, but they aren’t the same. For another, some UK citizens are less than thrilled with the idea of predators being released into nearby forests. "They're reputed to do a lot of their hunting within a 200–250m area surrounding woodland, and there is an awful lot of grassland grazed by sheep surrounding woodland," National Sheep Association chief executive Phil Stocker told the BBC.

Conservationists insist that the cats want deer, not livestock, and that they would be reluctant to leave the woods. “You will never see Eurasian lynx running across an open field," feline expert Paul O’Donoghue told the BBC.

The Lynx UK Trust is now in the process of identifying potential release sites. Once they’ve found those, the next step will be consulting experts—and the locals—to check if the plan is viable.

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8 Pro Tips for Taking Incredible Pictures of Your Pets

Thanks to the internet, owning a photogenic pet is now a viable career option. Just ask Theron Humphrey, dog-dad to Maddie the coonhound and the photographer behind the Instagram account This Wild Idea. He gained online fame by traveling across the country and sharing photographs of his dog along the way. But Maddie’s impressive modeling skills aren’t the only key to his success; Humphrey has also mastered some essential photography tricks that even the most casual smartphone photographer can use to make their pet look like a social media star.


Based on her Instagram presence, you’d guess Maddie is either in the middle of a road trip or a scenic hike at any given time. That’s no accident: At a pet photography workshop hosted by Adobe, Humphrey said he often goes out of his way to get that perfect shot. “You need to keep situating yourself in circumstances to continue making great work,” he said, “even if that means burning a tank of gas and going someplace you’ve never been.”


Dog and owner on a couch.

That being said, it’s important to know your pet’s limits. Is your dog afraid of flying? Then leave him with a pet sitter when you vacation abroad. Does your cat hate the water? Resist the temptation to bring her into the kayak with you on your next camping trip, even if it would make for an adorable photo opportunity. “One thing I think is important with animals is to operate within the parameters they exist in,” Humphrey said. “Don’t go too far outside their comfort zone.”


Not every winning pet photo is the result of a hefty travel budget. You can take professional-looking pictures of your pet at home, as long as you know how to work with the space you’re in. Humphrey recommends looking at every element of the scene you’re shooting in and asking what can be changed. Don’t be shy about moving furniture, adjusting the blinds to achieve the perfect lighting, or changing into a weird outfit that will make your pup’s eyes pop.


Two dogs in outfits.

Ella and Coconut Bean.

Trying to capture glamorous photos of a moving, barking target is a hard job. It’s much easier when you have a human companion to assist you. Another set of hands can hold the camera when you want to be in the picture with your pet, or hold a toy or treat to get your dog’s attention. At the very least, they can take your pet away for a 10-minute play session when you need a break.


The advent of digital cameras, including the kind in your smartphone, was a game-changer for pet photographers. Gone are the days when you needed to be picky about your shots to conserve film. Just set your shutter to burst mode and let your camera do the work capturing every subtle blep and mlem your pet makes. Chances are you’ll have plenty of standout shots on your camera roll from which to choose. From there, your hardest job will be “culling” them, as Humphrey says. He recommends uploading them to a photo organizing app like Adobe Lightroom and reviewing your work in two rounds: The first is for flagging any photo that catches your eye, and the second is for narrowing down that pool into an even smaller group of photos you want to publish. Even then, deciding between two shots taken a fraction of a second apart can be tricky. “When photos are too similar, check the focus,” he said. “That’s often the deciding factor.”


When it comes to capturing the perfect pet photo, an expensive camera is often less important than your cat’s favorite feather toy. The most memorable images often include pets that are engaging with the camera. In order to get your pet to look where you want it to, make sure you're holding something your pet will find interesting in your free hand. If your pet perks up at anything that makes noise, find a squeaky toy. If they’re motivated by food, use their favorite treat to get their attention. Don’t forget to reward them with the treat or the toy after they sit for the photo—that way they’ll know to repeat the behavior next time.


Person with hat taking photo of dog and dog food.

According to Humphrey, your pet’s eye should be the focus of most shots you take. In some cases, you may need to do more to make your pet the focal point of the image, even if that means removing your face from the frame altogether. “If there’s a human in the photo, you want to make them anonymous,” Humphrey said. That means incorporating your hands, legs, or torso into a shot without making yourself the star.


This is the mantra Theron Humphrey repeated throughout his workshop. You can scout out the perfect location and find the perfect accessories, but when you’re shooting with animals you have no choice but to leave room for flexibility. “You have to learn to roll with the mistakes,” Humphrey said. What feels like a hyperactive dog ruining your shot in the moment might turn out to be social media gold when it ends up online.


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