A SCOTS landowner has revealed his plans to bring wolves back to the Highlands.
Paul Lister, laird of the Alladale estate 60 miles north of Inverness, will commission a feasibility study next year, which he hopes will allow wolves to be reintroduced to the Scottish Highlands in the next three years.
Lister, who is the heir to the MFI fortune, plans to build a 20,000 hectare Highland reserve enclosed by a fence, that will initially contain up to a dozen wolves.
If the plan works Lister then hopes to introduce bears to his reserve.
However, Lister’s plans have provoked angry accusations from critics who claim that this is a selfish goal.
Despite opposition, Lister said that he is serious about the introduction of wolves, which were hunted into extinction in the 18th century.
Following the feasibility study, he is hoping to have up to 12 wolves in the enclosed reserve by 2016.
Lister bought the Alladale estate 10 years ago, after his dad reportedly sold his share of the MFI business for £52m in 1985.
As Alladale is only half the size of the land he thinks wolves would require, Lister is hoping to secure the cooperation of neighbouring landowners.
He believes that the reserve could attract up to 20,000 visitors a year, and hopes to build accommodation for up to 80 guests along with the reserve.
Since buying the estate Lister has been at the head of a number of campaigns to protect and enhance wildlife including elks, boars, wildcats and red squirrels.
Lister has stressed that he does not want to release the animals back into the wild, as overtime people have forgot how to live alongside them. Instead he will follow the South African example of a game reserve.
He said: “If you don’t have an ideal to die for you have nothing to live for. My ideal is that I want to hear the wolf howl again in Scotland.
At Alladale was believe that wolves and bears will create a huge attraction for Scotland’s tourism industry, especially in a region where livestock farming and deer stalking offer little in the way of employment.”
Garry Marvin, professor of human-animal studies at the University of Roehampton in London, supports the move to bring back wolves he said it was a “fantastic idea.”
Marvin said: “The wolf has been demonised so much that we have tried in the past to eradicate it from the face of the planet.
“For any successful conservation strategy it is vital to engage with local people to understand their feelings and attitudes, or they will simply feel alienated and disempowered and be much less likely to co-operate.”
Anne Gray from Scottish Land and Estates which represents landowners, offered cautious support for the move.
She said: “This undoubtedly presents challenges, but could also offer a unique ecotourism opportunity for Scotland.”
Rob Gibson, the SNP MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, and the convenor of the Scottish Parliament’s environment and rural affairs a committee, was not so supportive of the plans.
Gibson said: “He treats his land as a private kingdom and that goes against Scottish access laws.”
While Dave Morris, director of Ramblers Scotland, said that the reserve would be a restriction on peoples rights to roam and would damage the landscape due to the fences and tracks that would be installed.
Earlier this year, wildlife experts held a debate to discuss the possibility of bringing back bears to the Scottish highlands.
The debate which was held in Lochinver in Sutherland discussed the pros and cons of reintroducing bear, wolves and lynxes back to Scotland.