Breathtaking Coral Greenhouse raises environmental awareness for the Great Barrier Reef

June 24, 2020 by  
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Acclaimed British sculptor and marine conservationist Jason deCaires Taylor has recently completed the Coral Greenhouse, his first-ever underwater building and the largest installation at Australia’s newly opened Museum of Underwater Art in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef. Constructed in nearly a year’s time, the monumental project weighs around 58 metric tons and comprises diverse scenes of study — from marine science and coral gardening to environmental art and architecture — to raise awareness and understanding of the Great Barrier Reef and its ecology. In addition to providing a fascinating new dive site for scuba divers, the Coral Greenhouse and its 20-plus “Reef Guardian” sculptures will provide new reef habitat for local marine creatures.  Specially crafted for the ocean within a natural inlet of John Brewer Reef, the 12-meter-tall Coral Greenhouse and the surrounding sculptures are made from pH neutral cement compounds, zinc anodes and corrosion-resistant 316 stainless steel. Triangular cross sections feature low centers of gravity for stability while the extensive cement base with integrated cyclone tethers protect against adverse weather conditions. Figurative sculptures — cast from children from local and international schools — as well as locally inspired gardens and paving are placed in and around the Coral Greenhouse as a reminder of our precious relationship with the marine world. Related: Explore eerie wonders at the Museum of Underwater Art “The design of the greenhouse is biomorphic, its form determined by the forces of nature,” deCaires Taylor said in a press statement. “As the Greenhouse is slowly colonized and built upon by the reef , it will be gradually absorbed into its surroundings, illustrating an organic architectural philosophy which centers on the unification and connection of designs to their surroundings. The porous skeletal structure provides a space suitable for ever changing marine conditions, a refuge for marine species. It allows for excellent overhead light penetration and dive access.” Located offshore from Townsville, the Coral Greenhouse is accessed via three large 2-meter entrances. There is expansive floor space to give divers enough room to comfortably rest and explore the artworks .  + Museum of Underwater Art Photography by Matt Curnock via Museum of Underwater Art

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Breathtaking Coral Greenhouse raises environmental awareness for the Great Barrier Reef

Isle of Man retreat is carbon-neutral and focused on conservation

April 23, 2020 by  
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The carbon-neutral Sartfell Restorative Rural Retreat is located on the Isle of Man, a self-governing island possession of the British Crown. The British Isle is known for its medieval history, museums, castles and rugged landscape. The product of a collaboration between architect Foster Lomas , local charity Manx Wildlife Trust and a retired couple with a background in biological science , medicine and education, this unique project was designed to blend seamlessly into its picturesque surroundings. The architectural program called for the restoration, conservation and management of 7.5 acres of nature reserve on Sartfell Mountain, with the building retreat at the core of the project. The architects at Foster Lomas applied their previous experience using drystone construction in the design of this particular retreat. The drystone was harvested onsite to promote the inclusion of local building materials, and the team designed the rooftop to mimic the vernacular. The firm made these specific choices so that the structure, over time, would physically become a part of the landscape with minimal site impact. Related: Carbon-neutral home in Australia conceals its energy efficiency with minimalist design Large, ribbon windows wrap around the building, providing spectacular and unique views of the looming Mountains of Mourne, the Irish Sea and the Mull of Galloway. The retreat’s central staircase shapes the building into a triangular plan that leads to the library and is topped with a clerestory section of wall framing the study. The architects designed and constructed the stairs to mimic and align with the mountains outside. The entire site is carbon-neutral . The building itself is equipped with ground source heating that harnesses the energy from a local lake as well as a natural processing sewerage system and a wind turbine. Before construction began, the design team monitored the surrounding weather conditions with the intent of capturing data to achieve the highest level of environmental performance possible for the building. The result is an immensely energy-efficient and gorgeous retreat with unbeatable views to boot. + Foster Lomas Photography by Edmund Sumner via Foster Lomas

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Isle of Man retreat is carbon-neutral and focused on conservation

How to stock a vegan pandemic pantry

April 7, 2020 by  
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As what used to be ordinary errands become brave forays into a coronavirus -paralyzed world, online grocery stores have seen a huge uptick in orders. People with dietary restrictions may be especially challenged. “When you’re vegan, it’s so much harder to find some of the things you need,” said Ryan Wilson, co-owner of Wisconsin-based Vegan Essentials. He and his wife Courtney Ernster, who founded the mail-order grocery in 1997, have been working around the clock to keep up with demand. Here are some tips from Wilson on what to buy for a vegan pantry, where to get these items and why getting groceries might take longer than you expect. What vegan pantry supplies to buy The first instinct is to stock up on dry goods and pantry staples: flour, sugar, vegetable oil, rice, dried beans and lentils. Ground flax seed makes an easy egg replacement in baked goods, and perhaps grab as much shelf-stable soy milk as you can carry. Related: Keep your pantry stocked with these staples for a plant-based diet But Wilson surprisingly said people are ordering “anything and everything.” Even items that usually sit for a while are now flying off the shelves. “It is truly a period where no matter what we have, every single thing is going, whether it’s frozen meals, refrigerated products, dry goods, even dog food and treats are going out at faster paces than usual.” What are Wilson and Ernster stacking in their own pantry? Turns out they’re thinking farther ahead and bringing home jerky, canned chili and heat-and-serve pouch meals. “Things that are easy if you want to tuck some extra stock on the shelf just in case there’s limited cooking abilities or anything of that sort,” Wilson explained. “Things that are just very easy to open up, grab, heat or just eat straight from the pack.” We’ve been avoiding thinking about grid failure, but he makes a good point. A can of chili won’t fail you like dried beans and rice will if you can’t turn on your stove. A few sweets can be comforting at a time like this. Dates and dark chocolate have some nutrients and can be eaten on their own or baked into delicious treats. Where to buy vegan food online Like many people, the pandemic finally eroded my resistance to Amazon Prime, partly because of the free delivery from Whole Foods. Alas, I filled up my online shopping cart only to find out there were no delivery windows available. This is a problem plaguing many grocery stores that deliver. As a warning, all of the stores in this section may let you down at times, as items continue to fly off shelves and stores remain understaffed. In addition to retail giants like Amazon and Instacart, many more specialty businesses appeal to vegetarians, vegans and health -conscious individuals. Bob’s Red Mill , beloved purveyor of whole foods, is a superstar when it comes to grains, cereals, flours, mixes, beans and seeds. Bob’s Red Mill also has a dedicated gluten-free production line. Related: The best sources for plant-based protein Vegan Essentials can fulfill your alternative meat and cheese needs, and this online grocery sells vegan treats such as white chocolate, caramels and snickerdoodle dessert hummus. It also stocks all the standard things a vegan household needs, from pantry staples to cleaners. Deja Vegan specializes in vegan snack foods, like cookies, crackers and bars. A business partner of PETA , Deja Vegan donates half of its profits to animal causes. Coronavirus-related complications to supply and demand When you’re ordering groceries during the pandemic, it helps to be patient and ready to substitute items. Vegan Essentials’ experience is probably typical of many online food businesses right now. “It went from being a normal volume we were very, very much able to handle to getting about three to five times our normal business almost overnight,” Wilson said. “Which of course is only exacerbated by the challenge of people being restricted and everybody kind of being stuck inside.” Supply chains have mostly been reliable, Wilson said, but he has encountered some shortages. At the lowest point, he was placing orders and only receiving half of what he needed for his customers. “But it seems that right now we’re getting about 75 to 80% of what we need,” Wilson said. “I’m hoping in the next few weeks as companies start to ramp up production and things smooth out, I’m hoping we can get that back to having everything on hand all the time.” There’s also the problem of quickly adding staff as demand soars. Vegan Essentials is relying on a network of family and friends who have suddenly lost their jobs. More than ever, trust among employees is paramount. Wilson said, “We try to keep self-contained where we kind of know everybody and everyone feels safe and doesn’t wonder, ‘Was that person going places they shouldn’t have gone?’” Vegan Essentials is getting more international orders than it has had in the past, including from new customers in Australia, France, Japan, Germany, Sweden and Finland. “We haven’t heard specifically why people are looking to order from the USA more than just sticking with the usual places in Europe that can get things to them a little bit sooner. But it could just be that now that people are confined, they’re looking for a little extra variety to have something different on hand.” Because grocers are essential businesses, the folks at Vegan Essentials will keep working to meet demand. “There’s not much else we can do right now but work and keep things moving,” Wilson said. “So we may as well just keep doing the best job we can.” Images via Maddi Bazzocco , Martin Lostak and Andrea Davis

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How to stock a vegan pandemic pantry

A heritage industrial site becomes a dreamy wilderness retreat in Australia

April 6, 2020 by  
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In the middle of Australia’s deepest lake, a historic industrial site has been reborn as Pumphouse Point, a charming getaway perfect for nature lovers and adventure seekers. Designed by architecture firm Cumulus Studio , the boutique accommodation is the realization of tourism developer Simon Currant’s 18-year vision to thoughtfully and sustainably make a portion of Tasmania’s Wilderness World Heritage Area more accessible to travelers. The grounds comprise a collection of buildings, two of which were renovated from heritage-listed Art Deco buildings, originally part of the Hydro Electric scheme. Originally constructed in 1940, the five-story pump house that was built as part of the state’s Hydro Electricity Scheme had been used to pump water from Lake St. Clair to the nearby St. Lake Lagoon. The building was decommissioned in the early ’90s and sat unused for decades. Today, the site has become home to a unique, 18-room boutique property that is housed in three buildings: the new-build “Retreat”, “The Pumphouse” and “The Shorehouse.” The latter two are refurbished historic buildings. The Shorehouse, which was the original Hydro substation, also includes a new dining and lounge extension. Related: 1850s barn in Italy becomes a modern, sustainable family home In keeping with the values of the World Heritage Site, in which the property is located, the Cumulus team retained the existing buildings’ footprints and minimally modified the exteriors. In contrast, the interiors are strikingly contemporary yet still minimalist to keep focus on the outdoors. A neutral palette of timber and metal imparts a “rugged simplicity” that also alludes to the site’s history. Due to Pumphouse Point’s remote location and the tight project budget, the architects turned to prefabrication and simple construction techniques to streamline the building process. In addition to spectacular views, Pumphouse Point guests can also enjoy nature walks, lake excursions, biking trails and more. Other than newborns and infants, the boutique property does not accommodate anyone under the age of 18. + Cumulus Studio Photography by Adam Gibson via Cumulus Studio

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A heritage industrial site becomes a dreamy wilderness retreat in Australia

Reclaimed wood raft features an origami paper canopy

April 6, 2020 by  
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The innovative team at U.K.-based Inclume has come up with a unique way to take a break from the stresses of life. Its latest design is a reclaimed wood raft that accommodates two people. The Tetra raft even features a peaceful shading canopy made out of delicate, origami paper forms. Inspired by the shape of an abstracted sail, the volume of the raft incorporates multiple tetrahedron shapes. Entirely constructed out of reclaimed materials, Tetra achieves its buoyancy thanks to three old barrels that were donated to the team. Atop the barrels is the main platform, which is made of salvaged shipping pallets provided by a local carpenter. Several discarded garden bamboo canes comprise the frame and canopy. Even the boat’s oars, which were sanded and painted with a triangular motif, were donated from a local boat club. Related: Floating ICEBERG creatively confronts global warming With its tiny size and rustic nature, the reclaimed wood raft is perfect for an escape on the water. Adding a bit of serenity to the design is a beautiful, handcrafted canopy. This canopy consists of several triangular frames, which are crafted from thread entwined with recycled paper. The canopy is then covered in origami paper forms that add whimsy to the overall design. Intricately folded by hand, the paper forms sway gently in the wind and allow natural light and shade to dance across the raft. The Tetra raft was a temporary installation that took place on a local lake. During the day, passersby were encouraged to help the team construct parts of the raft on the shore. According to the designers, the aim of the event was not only to build a temporary, water-based shelter out of reclaimed materials, but to also encourage people to participate in similar projects in their communities. + Inclume Images via Inclume

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Reclaimed wood raft features an origami paper canopy

First home solar pavement installed on a driveway

April 6, 2020 by  
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Solar tiles aren’t just for roofs anymore. Platio, a Budapest, Hungary-based tech company, has just installed the first solar pavement for use on a residential driveway. “Roofs are not the only surfaces that can be used for solar energy production,” said Platio co-founder and engineer Imre Sziszák. “Paved areas absorb solar radiation all day long as well. The walkable solar panels of Platio can utilize this new source of clean energy.” Related: New recycled plastic sidewalk harvests energy from the sun The system consists of interlocking units called Platio solar pavers. Each paver is made from 400 recycled PET plastic bottles for a product more durable than concrete, according to the company’s product video . Pavement can be installed in sizes of 10 to 30 square meters and is suitable for driveways, terraces, balconies and patios. The energy generated by Platio tiles is fed back to the household’s power network. A 20-square-meter solar pavement can cover the yearly energy consumption of an average household, according to the video. The developers aimed for aesthetically pleasing tiles that would look good in a driveway and would increase a home’s energy efficiency. The solar pavers are available in black, red, blue and green. Hardened glass tiles protect the solar cells. They are anti-slip, so people can safely walk on them, and the tiles are designed to be able to bear the weight of a car occasionally driving over. Electric car drivers can also use the solar paving system to fuel their vehicles. Inhabitat previously reported on a 50-square-foot solar sidewalk Platio installed at an EV charging station in Budapest. Other uses include connecting a Platio solar paver system in an outdoor square to benches equipped with digital boxes, from which people can charge their mobile devices. Pavers could also fuel streetlights on nighttime walking paths. Unlike roof-mounted solar tile systems, paved areas with good sunlight access have a larger-scale potential for energy production. + Platio Images via Platio

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First home solar pavement installed on a driveway

A Brisbane cottage is sustainably updated to gracefully age in place

March 20, 2020 by  
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In Brisbane’s leafy suburb of Paddington, Australian architectural practice Shaun Lockyer Architects has created a contemporary and sustainable addition that provides a striking contrast to the original cottage it sits beside. Dubbed Sorrel Street, the concrete-clad extension is a deliberate counterpoint to the local vernacular while respecting the scale of the neighborhood. Sustainability and the client’s desire for limited maintenance also informed the design, which features green roofs, substantial thermal mass, LED lighting and low-E glass throughout. Completed in 2016, Sorrel was commissioned by clients who wanted their suburban home reworked to better meet the needs of their children, one of whom has limited mobility. As a result, the architects altered the sloping site to create a flat lawn that opens to the northwest side. The need for flat land also led the architects to place the contemporary addition to the north of the cottage so that the main living spaces could flow out to the level garden. Related: A 1920s cottage gets a new lease on life as an urban barnyard house “The project explores the juxtaposition between historical context and contemporary architecture within a broader subtropical paradigm,” Shaun Lockyer Architects explained. “In a somewhat controversial decision, the call was made to ‘leave well enough alone’ and make a clear distinction between the small, original cottage and the new work, keeping their respective personalities distinct.” The renovated, predominately single-story home is centered on the kitchen and comprises all the main sleeping and living areas on the upper level, while only the garage, storage, offices and media room are on the lower floor. To minimize energy use, the home is equipped with deep eaves and strategically placed windows and skylights for cross-flow ventilation and natural lighting. The insulating green roof and thick concrete walls help maintain stable indoor temperatures, while timber flooring and furnishings lend a sense of warmth throughout. + Shaun Lockyer Architects Photography by Scott Burrows via Shaun Lockyer Architects

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A Brisbane cottage is sustainably updated to gracefully age in place

Solar-powered home embraces tree canopy views in all directions

March 4, 2020 by  
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In the coastal township of Barwon Heads, Australian architecture firm Peter Winkler Architects has completed the Green Velvet House, a family’s solar-powered home that sensitively responds to the landscape in more ways than one. Positioned for passive solar design and to maximize views over the surrounding tree canopy, the sustainable dwelling was engineered to minimize impact on the existing terrain. In addition to walls of glass that let in natural light and ventilation, the home draws power from a rooftop solar array and minimizes its environmental footprint with rainwater collection tanks for irrigation and toilet-flushing. Nestled into an existing depression in the site, the Green Velvet House rises to a height of two stories with 580 square meters of living space. Its minimalist appearance — a facade of cement sheets and floor-to-ceiling glazing divided by exposed structural timbers — helps to reduce the building’s visual impact on the landscape. “In response to the program, we have minimized the building footprint by efficiently consolidating the form, rather than creating a sprawling building that overtakes the site,” the team explained. Related: Samurai-inspired home keeps naturally cool in Melbourne To keep the focus on the outdoors, the solar-powered home is surrounded by walls of glass and terraces that invite the owners outdoors on multiple floors. The outdoor spaces and the interiors are protected from unwanted solar gain by generous eaves and horizontal screens. The main living areas and the guest bedroom are located on the ground floor, while the upper floor is reserved for the more private areas, including the master suite and two children’s bedrooms. Plywood walls and a sealed fiber-cement ceiling reference the exterior materials and lend a sense of warmth to the interiors. Recycled “Grey Ironbark” hardwood columns and beams are also featured throughout the building. For energy efficiency, the Colorbond tray deck roof is fitted with a 10.26 kW photovoltaic system . The aluminum sliding doors are also outfitted with double glazing, while the double-hung, sashless windows can be opened for natural ventilation. Three 5,000-liter water tanks were installed beneath the north deck to store rainwater for garden use and toilet-flushing, while other stormwater runoff is retained in bioswales. The home is also equipped with hydronic heating, wood-burning fireplaces and a Sanden heat pump with a 315-liter water tank. + Peter Winkler Architects Photography by Jack Lovel via Peter Winkler Architects

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Solar-powered home embraces tree canopy views in all directions

Ivory Ella raises $96K to help animals affected by the Australian wildfires

February 27, 2020 by  
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Lifestyle brand Ivory Ella recently announced a generous donation of over $96,000 to Animals Australia, an animal protection organization giving aid to wildlife displaced and injured from the devastating bushfires that ravaged the country from September 2019 to February 2020. After the news broke about the bushfires in Australia and the heartbreaking effects on wildlife, Ivory Ella decided to slightly shift its platform to include an Australia Wildlife Rescue collection of organic cotton T-shirts, with 100% of profits going to Animals Australia. The brand sold more than 3,500 shirts on the first day after the collection was released and over 10,000 by the 10th day. Related: Koala-sniffing detection dog, Bear, helps save Koalas from Australian bushfires Now, just three weeks after the collection was released on January 10, 2020, enough profits were generated to donate $96,768.35. Ivory Ella is currently working on expanding, distributing 11 new colors to wholesale retailers (that Ivory Ella has encouraged to donate 100% of profits to Animals Australia as well) and offering a variety of short- and long-sleeve styles in an effort to bring in even more donations. “At Ivory Ella, we are champions for elephants and all they represent. We believe strongly in fostering a healthy global environment for humans and all the wildlife with whom we share our home,” said Cathy Quain, CEO of Ivory Ella. “We were overwhelmed with sadness as we learned about the impact of the devastating wildfires that are killing and displacing millions of wild animals in Australia and became compelled to help where we could. We are looking to our expansive community to help spread awareness and support for the survivors. It will take time to restore their environment, and we are inspired by the work done by Animals Australia to get expert wildlife vets into fire-devastated areas, where they are helping any surviving animals.” The eco-minded fashion company has had success in the past by donating 10% of its profits to organizations that support elephant conservation, which has become the main focus of its business model. The brand boasts $1.8 million donated since its initial launch in 2015. Visit Ivory Ella’s website to support the cause and view the Australian Wildlife Rescue collection of graphic T-shirts. To learn more about the non-profit Animals Australia, visit AnimalsAustralia.org . + Ivory Ella + Animals Australia Images via Ivory Ella

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Ivory Ella raises $96K to help animals affected by the Australian wildfires

Reintroducing the Eurasian Lynx to Scotland

February 27, 2020 by  
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The Eurasian lynx is so-called because it has been found in  forests  that stretch from Europe to central Asia, thus distinguishing it as the widest-ranging cat on our planet. Despite this, the species disappeared from Great Britain during the Middle Ages due to habitat loss and excessive hunting, according to the  Journal of Quaternary Science .  Now British scientists, spearheaded by the conservation group  Lynx UK Trust , are pushing to have the Eurasian lynx reintroduced into the British Isles, especially in the Scottish wilds.  Jo Pike, Chief Executive of the  Scottish Wildlife Trust , shared, “Returning the lynx to our landscape as a top predator could help restore the health of Scotland’s natural  ecosystems .” A quartet of lynx species exist worldwide: the bobcat ( Lynx rufus ), the Canada lynx ( Lynx canadensis ), the Iberian lynx ( Lynx pardinus ) and the Eurasian lynx ( Lynx lynx ). Largest of them all is the Eurasian lynx. With acute hearing and eyesight, Eurasian lynx are highly skilled hunters. They dine on wild ungulates, or hoofed animals, like deer . They also supplement their diet by preying on foxes, rabbits, hares, small forest animals and even birds. Interestingly, the Eurasian lynx is Europe’s third-biggest predator by size, just behind the brown bear and the grey wolf. As an apex predator, Eurasian lynx are valued by  conservationists  and ecologists for significantly influencing the distribution of other organisms in an ecosystem. In this way, Eurasian lynx can effectively help in the control of deer populations, culling the old and the weak. Eurasian lynx were eradicated from the British Isles due to hunting. Populations of roe deer, their preferred prey, were vastly diminished by the 19th century, hence destabilizing lynx livelihood. Lynx fur was also in high demand during previous centuries. This fur trade, understandably, had catastrophic consequences on lynx populations in the Britain of old. Across continental Europe and into central Asia, where the Eurasian lynx still exists, there are many threats to their survival in the wild. For example, the  International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List  cites human activity (agriculture, mining and quarrying, roads and railroads, logging and  deforestation , hunting and trapping) as adversely affecting Eurasian lynx populations through increasing urban sprawl, habitat loss and human-induced climate change. These are followed closely by disease and competition from  invasive species . In the United Kingdom today, legislation frowns upon the commercial hunting and trading of lynx fur in the British Isles, so these felines are now better protected. Besides, with contemporary Scotland as the home to the majority of British forests, the Eurasian lynx is likely to thrive there in the available  habitat . Even more favorable, Scotland has an abundance of roe deer and other types of ungulates that are in drastic need of natural culling, which is how the Eurasian lynx can play a vital role in the natural ecological processes. The  Woodland Trust  has documented that roe deer had almost been eradicated from Britain due to overhunting, up until the 19th century. But roe deer have since made a strong  recovery  in population numbers after their reintroduction into Britain. Now, their population density has since become exceedingly high, from a lack of natural predators and the absence of large carnivores in the UK. No surprise, then, that these roe deer have become a pest, overgrazing and thus unhinging the regeneration of the  woodlands . The habitat damage these roe deer bring requires that a large carnivore — their natural predator, the Eurasian lynx — be brought in for ecosystem equilibrium. Of course, there is opposition to lynx reintroduction, particularly from farmers who worry about their livestock. Scientists and stakeholders allay these concerns via reminders that the primary prey are roe deer, whose populations are bountiful in the Scottish countryside. These elevated numbers of roe deer would keep the lynx too occupied (and full) to meddle with farm animals. As for the uneasiness on whether these predatory felines would harm humans, the counterargument, once more, is that these cats prefer rural areas and tend to avoid encounters with humans, instead opting, by nature, to focus on the roe deer. There are some Brits who are apprehensive about the Eurasian lynx becoming a competitor to the Scottish wildcat, Scotland’s only native cat, for it, too, is a denizen of the woodlands. Scottish biologists have been striving to alleviate these qualms, pointing out that both the Eurasian lynx and Scottish wildcat can coexist peacefully, mainly because their prey selection is different. As Lynx UK Trust explained, the lynx reintroduction program is in the early stages, directed towards selecting reintroduction sites via careful evaluation and modeling approaches, as outlined in  Biological Conservation  journal. The reintroduction will be “soft releases” of the Eurasian lynx, meticulously monitored during trial runs before the program goes full-tilt. This transitional period will help scientists and conservationists work closely with local landowners, farmers and citizens of Scotland through education programs to help make the reintroduction initiative sustainably successful. Overall, the Eurasian lynx reintroduction plan holds great promise. Only time will tell what their long-term impact shall be on the Scottish and overall British landscape. Images via Flickr

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Reintroducing the Eurasian Lynx to Scotland

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