For the past ten days or so Dartmoor has claimed its very own ‘Beast’, and this time it isn’t mythical, although ‘beast’ should really be the last word used to describe Flaviu, the lynx who broke free from Dartmoor Zoo just a few hours after having arrived there from Kent. There certainly doesn’t seem to be any panic in the local area and the initial, slightly over the top, ‘lynx hunt’ has been replaced by a more ‘softly softly’ approach as the keepers wait for him to return to the zoo. The thinking behind his whereabouts relates to perceived lynx psychology. It is unlikely that he will have been making his way stealthily back to Kent, or indeed have fled to the wilds of Dartmoor. It is far more likely that he has kept to the general area of the zoo and its perimeter, enjoying a larger territory than he would have had otherwise within the bounds of the zoo, building it and protecting it. Paw prints have been found nearby and it is thought that it is he that has been taking food left out for him by the keepers in the vicinity of the zoo. This food would have been taken as it was there rather than a need for the lynx to feed – there is no shortage of other prey for him in the woods surrounding the zoo and he could thrive in these new surroundings.
Flaviu will probably return to the zoo, one day. However, what has been most interesting to see is the attitudesconcerning the break out, both from local people who do not seem at all concerned and from the zoo staff who similarly seem relaxed about the situation. The fact that a lynx has been on the run for a couple of weeks and there have not been any dreadful ‘incidents’ is a big tick in the box so far as a potential reintroduction goes. It provides a positive case for those who favour this animal returning to the British countryside that can be made use of as the debate moves forward. What would be most interesting is if this case were to turn into an observational experiment – enabling us to see how the lynx influences the environment surrounding him as well as populations of other species. However, I doubt this will happen. The reign of the current ‘beast of Dartmoor’ will surely not last long, but perhaps, just perhaps in the not too distant future his descendants will be able to walk freely, as Flaviu does currently, without the fear of being returned to captivity.